• ARRSE have partnered with Armadillo Merino to bring you an ARRSE exclusive, generous discount offer on their full price range.
    To keep you warm with the best of Merino gear, visit www.armadillomerino.co.uk and use the code: NEWARRSE40 at the checkout to get 40% off!
    This superb deal has been generously offered to us by Armadillo Merino and is valid until midnight on the the 28th of February.

Afghan HAZMAT dumping

#1
Yuk.

http://www.uruknet.info/?p=65401

The American military presence in Afghanistan consists of fleets of aircraft, helicopters, armored vehicles, weapons, equipment, troops and facilities. Since 2001, they have generated millions of kilograms of hazardous, toxic and radioactive wastes. The Kabul Press asks the simple question:

"What have the Americans done with all that waste?"

The answer is chilling in that virtually all of it appears to have been buried, burned or secretly disposed of into the air, soil, groundwater and surface waters of Afghanistan. While the Americans may begin to withdraw next year, the toxic chemicals they leave behind will continue to pollute for centuries. Any abandoned radioactive waste may stain the Afghan countryside for thousands of years. Afghanistan has been described in the past as the graveyard of foreign armies. Today, Afghanistan has a different title:

"Afghanistan is the toxic dumping ground for foreign armies."

The (U.S.) Air Force Times ran an editorial on March 1, 2010, that read: "Stamp Out Burn Pits" We reprint here the first half of that editorial:

"A growing number of military medical professionals believe burn pits are causing a wave of respiratory and other illnesses among troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Found on almost all U.S. bases in the war zones, these open-air trash sites operate 24 hours a day, incinerating trash of all forms — including plastic bottles, paint, petroleum products, unexploded ordinance, hazardous materials, even amputated limbs and medical waste. Their smoke plumes belch dioxin, carbon monoxide and other toxins skyward, producing a toxic fog that hangs over living and working areas. Yet while the Air Force fact sheet flatly states that burn pits "can be harmful to human health and environment and should only be used until more suitable disposal capabilities are established," the Pentagon line is that burn pits have "no known long-term health effects."

On April 12, 2010, the Richmond Times-Dispatch carried an article by David Zucchino who investigated the American burn pits in Iraq. He interviewed Army Sgt. 1st Class Francis Jaeger who hauled military waste to the Balad burn pit which was being operated by a civilian contractor for the Pentagon. Jaeger told Zucchino:

"We were told to burn everything - electronics, bloody gauze, the medics’ biohazard bags, surgical gloves, cardboard. It all went up in smoke."

The Pentagon now admits to operating 84 "official" burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. The number of unofficial burn pits is not known. The Pentagon claims that it is phasing out its burn pits in favor of incinerators and that 27 incinerators are currently operating in Iraq and Afghanistan with 82 more to be added in the near future.

According to a website called the "Burn Pits Action Center," hundreds of American veterans who came in contact with burn pit smoke have been diagnosed with cancer, neurological diseases, cardiovascular disease, breathing and sleeping problems and various skin rashes. In 2009, they filed more than 30 lawsuits in Federal courts across the United States, naming Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR), and its former parent company Halliburton. These companies were named because of their involvement in the LOGCAP (Logistics Civil Augmentation Program) contracts for Iraq and Afghanistan. Several KBR entities either managed or assisted in the management of the American military’s waste in both countries and allegedly operated some or all of the burn pits. Additional lawsuits were filed in 2010, including one in Federal District Court in New Jersey.

The lawsuits reveal that the Pentagon has ignored American and international environmental laws and the results appear to be the widespread release of hazardous pollutants into the air, soil, surface water and groundwater across Afghanistan. This is a persistent problem that continues today. Unlike Saudi Arabia which insisted that American forces cleanup their pollution after the war to oust Iraq from Kuwait in 1991, or the Government of Canada which likewise insisted on a strict cleanup of American bases on its soil, the Government of Afghanistan has been unable to force the Americans and their allies to repair all the environmental damage that they have caused and continue to cause. Afghanistan does not want to wind up like Vietnam. While American ground combat units withdrew from South Vietnam in 1972, neither Vietnam nor its people have recovered from the long term environmental damage and mutagenic effects that American military operations and their exotic chemicals caused.

This article summarizes the problem of America’s military wastes and examines the types of hazardous wastes that are likely to have been released into Afghanistan.

Part 2 of this series will address the contradictory responses by the Pentagon to this problem and it will explore one of the remedies that the Pentagon is currently implementing, which is to phase out the burn pits, replacing them with incinerators. The article examines the flaws in that strategy and why Afghanistan should carefully consider whether to permit the continued use of military incinerators.

Part 3 of this series will set out the recommendations of the author to the Government of Afghanistan on how to investigate and clean up the pollution of Afghanistan’s countryside caused by the burn pits, landfills and other disposal facilities used by American forces.

THE SOURCES OR MEANS BY WHICH THE VARIOUS WASTES ARE BEING RELEASED
The American military hazardous wastes that are believed to have entered the air, soil, groundwater and surface water of Afghanistan did so through the following methods (this list is partial only):

Burn pits
Incinerators
Burying/landfilling of the waste and ash
Intentional dumping
Accidental spills
Surface runoff
Leaking storage tanks, sumps and basins
Latrines
CATEGORIES OF AMERICAN MILITARY WASTE

The American military’s waste, at this time, cannot be completely characterized. The volume and variety of waste (i.e., thousands of different chemicals) are not known and there are certain to be classified items and materials which have been brought into Afghanistan for which there may be no documentation. Regardless of that, much is known about the materials and chemicals that the military routinely uses and about the waste that it routinely generates. Most American military wastes will falls into one of the following twelve (12) categories:

The Dirty Dozen:

1. Fuel leaks and spills. These include releases of aviation fuel, gasoline and diesel fuel. These releases would range from large releases at American airbases of hundreds or even thousands of liters, to minor spills at Forward Operating Bases and combat outposts as soldiers seek to refill diesel generators. Petroleum residues have the ability to leach rapidly into underground drinking water aquifers and create plumes that will permanently contaminate local wells. There is no known way to completely remediate a groundwater source after it has been contaminated with hydrocarbons.

2. Paints, asbestos, solvents, grease, cleaning solutions (such as perchloethylene) and building materials that contain formaldehyde, copper, arsenic and hydrogen cyanide.

3. Hydraulic fluids, aircraft de-icing fluids, antifreeze and used oil. Used oil is carcinogenic, anti-freeze is poisonous, de-icing fluids can contain hazardous ethylene and propylene glycol, along with toxic additives such as benzotriazoce (which is a corrosion and flame inhibitor). Hydraulic fluids can contain TPP (triphenyl phosphate).

4. Pesticide/poison leaks and spills: Afghanistan apparently has no list of the pesticides, fungicides, termiticides and other poisons that the Americans brought into Afghanistan and used, spilled and released into the countryside in order to control flies, mosquitos, ants, fleas and rodents. The military refers to such practices as "vector control." It is expected that the list of such neuro-toxins and the quantity sprayed or spilled throughout Afghanistan is staggering.

5. Lead, nickel, zinc and cadmium battery waste and acids (which are toxic and/or corrosive).

6. Electronic waste (or E-waste). This includes computers, printers, faxes, screens, televisions, radios, refrigerators, communications gear, test equipment. They contain cancer-causing chemicals such as the flame retardant PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), PCDD (polychlorinated dioxins), barium, copper, lead, zinc, cadmium oxides and cadmium sulphides and trivalent antimony, which is eco-toxic.

7. Light bulbs. This may not seem important but many military light bulbs are fluorescent and therefore contain toxic levels of mercury. Disposal of these light bulbs in ordinary landfills is prohibited in the United States.

8. Plastics. The U.S. military uses thousands of different types and formulations of plastic. While most are harmless in their present state, such as plastic water bottles and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) piping, the military has been burning its plastic waste in Afghanistan. When burned, many plastics release a deadly mix of chemicals including dioxins, furans, benzene, di 2-ethylhexyl phthalates (DEHP), hydrochloric acid, benzo(a)pyrene (BAP) and various acids and chlorine gas (which is a neurotoxin). Breathing a few seconds of this mixture in a concentrated form would likely be fatal.

9. Medical Waste. Infectious disease waste and biohazard materials, including used syringes, bloody bandages, sheets, gloves, expired drugs, amputated limbs and animal carcasses.

10. Ammunition waste. Lead, brass and other metals from ammunition along with all the constituents of the propellants, including trininitrotoluene, picric acid, diphenylamine, nitrocellulose, nitroglycerin, potassium nitrate, barium nitrate, tetracene, diazodintrophenol, phosphorus, peroxides, thiocarbamate, potassium chlorate, vinyl fluoride, vinyl chloride, sodium fluoride and sodium sulfate.

11. Radioactive waste. When one thinks of radioactive waste, usually one thinks only of atomic weapons, but that is not the case. The American military routinely uses a variety of devices and equipment that contain radioactive elements or radioluminescent elements. These materials are referred to as "Radioactive Commodities" by the American military. The primary radioactive materials are: Uranium, Tritium, Radium 226, Americium 241, Thorium, Cesium 137 and Plutonium 239.

Some of the equipment containing radioactive elements:

Night Vision Devices
M-16 Front Sight Post Assemblies
M72 Light Antitank Weapons
T-55 Aircraft Engine components
M58 and M59 Light Aiming Posts
M4 Front Sight Post Assemblies
RADIAC Calibrator Sets and Check Sources
Radium Compasses
L4A1 Quadrant Fire Control Devices
Fire Control Azimuths
Level Gauges
M-1 Collimators
M-1 Muzzle Reference Sensors
Soil Moisture Density Testers
TACOM Vehicle Dials and Gauges
Radios, including VRC-46/GRC-106/GRC-19
Chemical Agent Monitors
Testing Instruments
Vehicle Depleted Uranium Plates
Depleted Uranium Ammunition, including 20 millimeter ammunition
Electron Tubes for Communications Equipment
Various types of Laboratory and Hospital Analysis and Testing Machines.
Note: The American military will likely insist that it strictly controls the disposal of radioactive waste, but such assertions are not credible. While there are strict regulations, the time and cost of complying with them in a war zone are such that base commanders in Afghanistan most likely ignored them, opting instead for throwing the waste into burn pits. The evidence for this is contained in Part 3 of this Report, which cites to a Pentagon-funded study of what American field commanders think of the Pentagon’s environmental regulations.

If the American military continues to insist that it did not release radioactive materials in Afghanistan it should document such assertions by releasing its records. The Pentagon should publicly release all data on every radioactive commodity brought into Afghanistan. They should all be listed in HMIRS (the Hazardous Materials Information System). The Pentagon should then detail where each commodity is today.

12. Grey and Black Water. The American military and its contractors in Afghanistan operate human waste facilities. The military refers to these as LSS (Latrine, Shower and Shave) facilities. They generate what is known as grey and black waste-water. Grey water from sinks and showers has as its primary pollutant soap residue (i.e., phosphates and other chemicals that generate what is known as BOD - biological oxygen demand, which means they can absorb all the available oxygen in streams and rivers so fish cannot breathe). Some American soaps contain additives such as MIT (methylisothiazolinone), which is under investigation as a toxin.

Latrines generate black water pollution. While the American military has to adhere to strict rules regarding the discharge of such waste in the United States, it faces no restrictions in Afghanistan. Latrines can be dug near ground water and even upgradient from surface water (so that discharges can flow into them). There are no known maps of all the American latrines. After a latrine pit is filled, it is apparently covered over with dirt and forgotten.

While environmental releases involving categories 1 and 12 above are a certainty, it is feared that millions of kilograms and millions of liters of wastes set out in categories 2 through 11 were all thrown into the hundreds of American burn pits in Afghanistan or dumped into secret landfills. If true, the American legacy to Afghanistan is not freedom, but pollution.

In February 2010, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs began an 18-month study of the burn pits in Afghanistan and their effect on human health. Afghanistan cannot wait eighteen months for the results of this study, it has to act now.

The author is a former U.S. Air Force Captain. He advised on environmental cleanups at Logistics Command regarding the Air Force’s most contaminated bases and depots. He then worked for Bechtel Environmental and was involved in Superfund cleanups across the United States and radiological cleanups at U.S. Department of Energy sites. He later served as a consultant to a group of environmental remediation companies, smelters and waste recyclers.

Sources for Further Reading:

Houston Chronicle - February 7, 2010 - "GIs tell of horror from burn pits"

Los Angeles Times - February 18, 2010 - "Veterans speak out against burn pits"

The New York Times - February 25, 2010 - "Health Panel Begins Probing Impacts of Burn Pits"

Salem-News - March 29, 2010 - "Sick Veterans Sue KBR Over Iraq and Afghanistan Burn Pits"

AFP - November 10, 2009 - "Troops sue KBR over toxic waste in Iraq, Afghanistan"

U.S. Department of the Army Pamphlet 700-48
 
#3
When Afghanistan is reffered to as a Third World Shite Hole,it is a pretty accurate description of when I was there, and that was in the 70s
 
#6
"When Afghanistan is reffered to as a Third World Shite Hole,it is a pretty accurate description of when I was there, and that was in the 70s "

1870's or 1770's Tropper? I thought you were busy becoming acquainted with death on dark nights on a near daily basis in NI during the 1970's?
 
#7
jim30 said:
"When Afghanistan is reffered to as a Third World Shite Hole,it is a pretty accurate description of when I was there, and that was in the 70s "

1870's or 1770's Tropper? I thought you were busy becoming acquainted with death on dark nights on a near daily basis in NI during the 1970's?
Shortly after my close call in Belfast I drove a Landy through Afghanistan
 
#8
This was the same case for US forces in Iraq some time ago.Eventually it was decided that dealing with the waste was ''too expensive''.One problem was that it could not be exported for treatment as neither Iraq nor US is a party to the Basle Convention.The use of plasma beam equipment too destroy the waste in situ was also regarded as ''too expensive''
 
#10
HectortheInspector said:
Yuk.

http://www.uruknet.info/?p=65401

The American military presence in Afghanistan consists of fleets of aircraft, helicopters, armored vehicles, weapons, equipment, troops and facilities. Since 2001, they have generated millions of kilograms of hazardous, toxic and radioactive wastes. The Kabul Press asks the simple question:

"What have the Americans done with all that waste?"

The answer is chilling in that virtually all of it appears to have been buried, burned or secretly disposed of into the air, soil, groundwater and surface waters of Afghanistan. While the Americans may begin to withdraw next year, the toxic chemicals they leave behind will continue to pollute for centuries. Any abandoned radioactive waste may stain the Afghan countryside for thousands of years. Afghanistan has been described in the past as the graveyard of foreign armies. Today, Afghanistan has a different title:

"Afghanistan is the toxic dumping ground for foreign armies."







Oh dear, what a shame, never mind!
Meanwhile the Afghans continue to produce & pollute the WHOLE world with huge quantities of OPIUM! :x :x :x
 
#11
Spanner said:
So I take it they'll be pursuing the Russians for the mess left behind in the 80s as well?
Ahhh! But the difference is that you can sue us...and the spams! Wait for the ambulance chasing lawyers to arrive by the busload....when the IEDs are cleared of course.
 
#12
Yes it is a really bad idea to burn sh1t like that but the author should try a quick trip to, say, those bits of Delhi where people eke out a miserable living by burning cables and printed circuit boards to recover the copper.

Now that is nasty: Dioxin City.
 
#13
Blogg said:
Yes it is a really bad idea to burn sh1t like that but the author should try a quick trip to, say, those bits of Delhi where people eke out a miserable living by burning cables and printed circuit boards to recover the copper.

Now that is nasty: Dioxin City.
Yer that's just up the river from where the burn dead people, and chuck the ashes into the Ganges
 
#14
Fuck them! Afghanistan has been polluting the veins of the west for YEARS with its opiate production, and reaping the profits. (no pun intended)

Sympathy - In the dictionary between shit and syphilis. :x
 
#15
Business opportunity for UK plc here.

We are the worlds dumping ground for Nuclear waste, let's bye pass Sellafield, dig a big hole in Afghanistan, bury it, take the money off many grateful countries.

Winners all round. We get plenty of cash to pay off the national debt. The rest of the world thinks we're leaders in green technology, and plough money in. Afghanistan gets underfloor heating throughout the country. :thumleft:
 
#16
We got humped in Bosnia over this. When we went in initially in 1992 we were in a bit of a rush and didn't do proper ground surveys. Obviously a lot of the places we took over were completly fcuked and already polluted e.g. the Bus Depot in MG. This didn't stop the Bosnian Government blaming all of the soil contamination on us when we pulled out in 2007. Cnuts, the lot of them.
 
#17
tropper66 said:
jim30 said:
"When Afghanistan is reffered to as a Third World Shite Hole,it is a pretty accurate description of when I was there, and that was in the 70s "

1870's or 1770's Tropper? I thought you were busy becoming acquainted with death on dark nights on a near daily basis in NI during the 1970's?
Shortly after my close call in Belfast I drove a Landy through Afghanistan
Did you get lost on the way back from the Med Centre?
 
#18
I suppose it's no news that modern war produces lots of toxic crap. What might be a concern is that the American command SHOULD have learned better, and apparently DID know that this was really bad practice, but went ahead and did it anyway.

It seems that Dick Cheney's mates in Halliburton were involved.

Considering that the US must have known that they were going to be there for decades, it seems quite bizarre that they fouled their own nest in this way. Hardly 'duty of care' towards your own troops is it?

Lessons of Vietnam and Agent Orange appear to have been forgotten.By the looks of it, the Afghan war isn't going to produce a 'Gulf War Syndrome', but a 'Toxic trashcan' syndrome.

Maybe Jumpingjarhead or one of the other US commentators here know more?
 
#19
spaz said:
tropper66 said:
jim30 said:
"When Afghanistan is reffered to as a Third World Shite Hole,it is a pretty accurate description of when I was there, and that was in the 70s "

1870's or 1770's Tropper? I thought you were busy becoming acquainted with death on dark nights on a near daily basis in NI during the 1970's?
Shortly after my close call in Belfast I drove a Landy through Afghanistan
Did you get lost on the way back from the Med Centre?
Yer turned left over the bridge, and went on to bury a shite load of crap in the Falklands, put it this way, there was no Mt at Mt Pleasent before I dumped all those Volvo tyres, and we covered the toxic waste dump with the EWS on the way to the Hanger
 
#20
Part 2
http://kabulpress.org/my/spip.php?article9030

Pentagon officials seem to support the following epitaph for Afghanistan:

“We had to pollute the Afghan countryside in order to save it from the Taliban."

In reality, the American military did not have to pollute. It chose to be sloppy and reckless and to ignore environmental standards.


On October 28, 2009, George W. Bush, in one of his last acts as President, signed into law H.R. 2647, which included provisions of “The Military Personnel War Zone Toxic Exposure Prevention Act.” The Act was sponsored by Congressman Tim Bishop of New York. It banned the use of burn pits in Afghanistan by the military. What is disturbing about H.R. 2647 is that an act of Congress was necessary to force the Pentagon to act responsibly and cease its use of toxic (open air) burning pits. It raises the question about how committed the Pentagon is to environmental protection and to the people of Afghanistan.

The impetus for this legislation was a courageous report written by Lieutenant Colonel Darrin L. Curtis, PhD BSC. Lt. Col. Curtis was a Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight Commander at Balad Air Base in Iraq in 2006. He wrote a report on the environmental and health impacts of the Balad burn pits. His report, dated December 20, 2006, concluded that the burn pit was “the worst environmental site” he had seen in seventeen years of environmental work in the United States. He characterized the smoke released by the military as: “an acute health hazard” to everyone who has been deployed or will be deployed to Balad. He disclosed that the U.S. Army completed a study in April 2006, that supported his findings. It was generated by the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine. Lt. Col. Curtis’ report was reviewed and endorsed by his equally courageous superior, Lieutenant Colonel James R. Elliott, MC, SPS, Chief Aeromedical Services. After that, the report went up the chain of command to more senior military officers much less courageous. They and the Pentagon ignored the report’s findings.

This was not the first such warning the Pentagon ignored. In the Fall of 2004, a U.S. Army Engineering publication, called “Engineer - The Professional Bulletin” reported that by 2002, Kandahar Airfield was facing “a growing human health and environmental threat” from the uncontrolled burning of hazardous waste. The U.S. Army vaguely claimed the problems had been solved by 2004. This was not true.

In 2008, the Pentagon published a private research study that seemed to confirm that American military commanders view environmental rules as being a nuisance which they are free to ignore, with no consequences. That study was the subject of a damning October 3, 2008, article by Kelly Kennedy, writing for the Military Times. It was entitled “Army Making Toxic Mess in War Zones.”

The article was prompted by the release in September 2008, of a Rand Corporation study commissioned by the Pentagon. The work was conducted by a Rand subsidiary called the Rand Arroyo Center. The report detailed a horrific series of environmental spills, releases and disposals in Iraq and Afghanistan. In response to an early draft of the report, the U.S. Army generated a June 11, 2008, memo from Deputy Assistant Secretary Addison Davis IV. He reportedly stated that: “It does no good to win the war only to forfeit the peace.”

Bruce Travis of the U.S. Army Engineering School stated that there were no environmental rules complied with in Iraq from 2003-2008 (this would presumably apply to Afghanistan also). He went on to tell the Times that an estimated 11 million pounds of hazardous waste exist (i.e., were disposed of) in Iraq.

Rand investigators interviewed American military commanders up to the battalion level about why they were not dealing with and stopping the pollution they were causing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of their responses were:

“It is not our job.”

“We are in the desert. What does it matter?

“We are here to fight a war not pick up trash.”

“We are just passing through and do not have time.”

If these responses are truly representative of the American military, Afghanistan has no chance of protecting its lands from American pollution.

In December, 2009, R. Craig Postlewaite, acting director of the Pentagon’s Force Health Protection and Readiness Programs, told Matthew D. LaPlante of the Salt Lake Tribune that the burn pits were a minor environmental problem. LaPlante dismissed the health risks, claiming that the objections were all cosmetic (i.e., soldiers objected to the sight of the smoke and the smell, not the content). This continues to be the position of the Pentagon.


At the present time, the Pentagon does not appear to be interested in addressing any of the past contamination it has caused. Instead, it is looking forward and claiming that its new incinerators will safely treat all future waste. While dozens of incinerators have apparently been installed in major bases across Afghanistan, this is not a comprehensive solution. In fact, as explained below, it may not even be a partial solution.

The exact number of American military bases in Afghanistan is apparently a closely guarded secret. CBS News, on February 10, 2010, published a report by Nick Turse entitled: “the 700 military bases of Afghanistan.” CBS claims that about 400 of the bases belong to Coalition forces, most of which are American. These facilities can generally be characterized as:

Air bases
Air fields
Camps
Forward Operating Bases (FOBs)
Fire bases
Coordination Centers
Patrol bases
Combat outposts (COPs)
Each of these 350-odd facilities may have one or more burn pits, landfills, or disposal pits. As incinerators are not being installed at each facility, the risk is that burn pits are continuing to operate. This article addresses the risks and dangers of using incinerators.

Thermal destruction units (TDUs) generally fall into two categories. Incinerators and pyrolytic thermal units. The former seeks to destroy waste by burning it and the latter by heating it. An incinerator applies flame and oxygen to burn hazardous waste. A pyrolytic unit places hazardous waste into a screw-fed cylinder or chamber. The chamber is heated, but the flames never touch the material. Pyrolytic units tend to burn cleaner because there is no oxidation of the waste. Unfortunately the Pentagon has opted to utilize incinerators in Afghanistan.

Incinerators can potentially work in Afghanistan. The problem is that they come in all different sizes, types and configurations. Some of these might work and the rest would not.

In order for an incinerator to safely and successfully function:

1. The incinerator should operate at a high enough temperature for a specific period of time. This is referred to as its DRE (Destruction Removal Efficiency). For hazardous materials, the DRE should be 99.9999%. It is referred to as “six-nines.” To achieve this DRE, depending on the feedstock, the incinerator may have to operate as high as 1400 degrees Centigrade. Remember, even at this DRE, an incinerator is never perfect. It will always emit some hazardous materials into the air and it will always be emit some potentially dangerous submicron particles (i.e., ultra fine dust);

2. The incinerator should be configured with primary and secondary combustion chambers;

3. The incinerator should have a multi-layered APCS (Air Pollution Control Systems). That would include having at least one water scrubber for metals and acids, and an ESP (Electro-Static Precipitator) to capture particulates;

4. Bag-house ash and the bottom ash should be collected hourly and carefully managed;

5. There should be hourly monitoring of flue gas emissions, including sampling for submicron particulate emissions;

6. There should also be fugitive air monitoring of ash management tasks.

7. Finally, agreement needs to be reached with the Afghan government as to the final disposal of the highly concentrated and toxic ash. Ideally, it should all be shipped back to the United States for final disposal.

A few chemistry facts regarding incinerators are necessary.

First: They are designed to burn organic chemicals and materials. They do not work on metals and can even make metals more toxic by oxidizing them.

Second: Plastics should never be burned. They release toxic compounds too numerous to test for. For example when burned, PVC plastic piping will release chlorine gas which can be a lethal poison.

Third: Combustion efficiency is difficult to measure where the feed rates and feedstock are not uniform.

Fourth: Reactive and explosive materials should be segregated out of the feedstock.

In summary, it is unlikely that the Pentagon’s incinerators are being operated in conformance with the requirements set forth above. If they are not of the proper quality and if they are not being managed as safely as this author recommends, the incineration remedy is not much better than the burn pits.

One of the other problems with the incineration “remedy” being employed by the Pentagon is that it treats a symptom rather than a cause. The cause of the problem is that the American military has a logistics system which is excessively and unnecessarily complex, and which therefore produces an exorbitant and unnecessary amount of hazardous waste. Consider this comparison:

1942: A German Panzer division needed from 30-70 tons of supplies per day.

1968: A North Vietnamese Army division needed less than 10 tons of supplies per day.

2010: An American division needs in excess of 3,000 tons of supplies per day.

There is an addiction to technology and gadgets within the Pentagon which can be harmful to military preparedness and effectiveness. All this fancy technology requires an endless supply system to keep it functioning.

Even with these devices, the American military seems unable to detect a land mine or IED composed of mainly wooden parts and using a simple nitrate explosive. Its night vision equipment does not work in rain or fog or twilight. Infrared sensors cannot distinguish a civilian from a Taliban soldier. All the money that is spent on technology might be more usefully spent on something as simple as teaching every American soldier to speak Dari or Pashto.

During the American Civil War, the Union Government almost lost the war because its generals were overly dependent on their cumbersome logistics system. Confederate armies moved swiftly and lightly, while Union forces moved slowly with large supply trains. An exasperated President Abraham Lincoln wrote a letter to General N.P. Banks, dated November 22, 1862, in which he lamented the failure of Banks to commence military operations until he had received a long list of supplies.

Lincoln wrote: “this expanding and piling up of impedimenta has been so far our ruin and will be our final ruin if it is not abandoned.” The failure of General George McClellan to advance until he had 100% of his supplies eventually led to his firing as the Union’s military commander. Confederate General Richard Stoddert Ewell reportedly said that “the road to glory cannot be followed with much baggage.”

In conclusion, the solutions to the American military’s waste problem are complex. They must include a major effort in waste minimization, segregation of hazardous from non-hazardous waste; strict management and return to the United States of all radioactive waste; and possibly the use of incinerators, but only if they can be operated safely, with a DRE of 99.9999% for all the wastes they burn; and as long as they do not burn plastics. All latrines and washing facilities must be carefully managed. Finally all toxic ash and other potentially hazardous wastes must be shipped back to the United States for disposal.

The final part of this series will address potential remedies to the wastes that have already been released into the Afghan countryside.
 

Latest Threads