The Democratic Policy Committee is still pushing for answers and accountability on the sodium dichromate leak issue in Iraq. You’ll recall that Halliburton subsidiary KBR was in charge of operations at a water facility in Iraq when this happened:

KBR’s employees and American military personnel at the facility are all alleged to have been exposed to sodium dichromate:

…"These soldiers were bleeding from the nose, spitting blood," said Danny Langford, an equipment technician from Texas brought to work at the Qarmat Ali Water treatment plant in 2003. "They were sick."

"Hundreds of American soldiers at this site were contaminated" while guarding the plant, Langford said, including members of the Indiana National Guard.

Langford is one of nine Americans who accuse KBR, the lead contractor on the Qarmat Ali project and one of the largest defense contractors in Iraq, of knowingly exposing them to sodium dichromate, an orange, sandlike chemical that is a potentially lethal carcinogen. Specialists say even short-term exposure to the chemical can cause cancer, depress an individual’s immune system, attack the liver, and cause other ailments.

The answers thus far from the Pentagon, KBR and Halliburton? *crickets*

As Sen. Dorgan says in the video above, this is unacceptable.

The DPC has sent a letter to the DOD demanding accountability, and issued a press release summarizing their findings and questions to date, including:

…Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Evan Bayh (D-IN) released a letter Thursday they sent to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Pete Geren, Secretary of the Army, saying briefings their offices have received on a study they requested have raised additional questions.

Dorgan chaired a hearing in the Senate Democratic Policy Committee in June 2008 on the exposure at the Qarmat Ali water injection facility in Iraq. Bayh represents many of the soldiers, members of the Indiana National Guard, who were exposed. Soldiers from Oregon, South Carolina and West Virginia were also exposed.

Dorgan and Bayh said the Army’s evidence and their own investigations indicate that exposure of the troops appears to be more severe than the Army and contractor KBR have acknowledged.

They also asked Gates and Geren to explain how the Army could pronounce itself “satisfied” with its oversight of KBR, and the response by KBR and the Army to the exposure, given the following:

Some soldiers, exposed to the deadly chemical in the spring and summer of 2003, still have not been informed by either the Army or KBR that they were exposed.

For months, KBR failed to identify the presence of the chemical, even though it was required to conduct an “environmental risk assessment;” and even though it received a United Nations report in the spring of 2003 that stated there was sodium dichromate at the site.

According to the Army’s own timeline, nearly three months passed after the initial detection before KBR began testing at the site. KBR waited two more weeks to start to start remediation of the site, and protective gear was not provided to soldiers until nearly a month after that.

Indiana National Guard personnel were not told of the exposure until they saw KBR employees using PPE (personal protective equipment) at the site….

Answers and accountability appear to be lacking on so many fronts these days. Good that the DPC is still pushing on this issue.  We’ve put the full press release and letter to the Pentagon up here (PDF), in case you want a read.

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com