Tag Archives: conventional

Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger: Military must pursue alternatives to burning munitions

With President Barack Obama’s signature on the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, a nationwide grassroots campaign to ensure the safe disposal of conventional munitions stockpile secured a key victory.

The amendment, written by U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., will benefit hundreds of communities across the country where open air burning of hazardous waste is routinely conducted by the Departments of Defense and Energy, according to a news release.

“I have been working on cleaning up the Badger Army Ammunition Plant since I first entered Congress, so I was proud to fight for this reform to help other communities facing similar challenges,” Baldwin said, according to the release. “This provision will assist the military in using safer and more environmentally-friendly technologies to properly dispose of munitions to ensure that other sites are not contaminated the way that the Badger site was.”

“I was proud to support and help shepherd through the Senate, the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act which includes a provision important to Madison County and the Blue Grass Army Depot community allowing the Army to use cost-competitive technologies to safely and efficiently dispose of stockpiles of legacy conventional munitions,” added U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

The new act requires the Secretary of the Army to enter into an arrangement with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to conduct a study of the alternatives to the current practice of open burning the conventional munitions stockpile of the U.S. Department of Defense.

The Department of Defense manages conventional ammunition that includes items ranging from small arms cartridges to rockets, mortars, and artillery to tactical missiles.

As of February 2015, the stockpile of conventional ammunition awaiting demilitarization and disposal was approximately 529,373 tons.

By fiscal year 2020, the stockpile is expected to more than double, making the proper management and disposal of such large quantities of explosive materiel critical. 

“Open burning and detonation of munitions causes the uncontrolled dispersion of toxic heavy metals including chromium and lead, energetic compounds, perchlorate, nitrogen oxides and other munitions-related contaminants to the environment,” said Laura Olah, executive director of Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger in Wisconsin and an organizer with the Cease Fire Campaign – a national grassroots coalition of 60 environmental, labor, veterans and social justice organizations calling for safer alternatives. 

Sites like the Holston Army Ammunition Plant in Tennessee are currently permitted to open burn as much as 1,250,000 pounds net explosive waste per year — ignoring a 2012 Army Corps of Engineers study that concluded there are cutting-edge technologies that could be successfully deployed at Holston to replace open burning.

“There are over 100 hazardous chemicals released from open burning waste explosives and explosives-contaminated construction demolition debris that can be toxic and carcinogenic,” cautioned Connie & Mark Toohey with Volunteers for Environmental Health and Justice and residents living downwind of Holston. “Dioxins are highly toxic and cause cancer, reproductive and developmental problems, damage to the immune system and can interfere with hormones.”

Also, for more than 60 years, the U. S. military used the offshore Island of Vieques, Puerto Rico for training exercises with live bombing, experimental use of conventional and non-conventional weapons, testing with napalm, agent orange, uranium and open burning and open detonation (OB/OD),” said Myrna Pagan with Vidas Viequenses Valen. “For over 10 years now there is a process of cleanup and restoration underway where OB/OD continues to contaminate this small island.”

“OB/OD is a dangerous, toxic and outdated method that feeds a health crisis of alarming rates of cancer and other catastrophic diseases,” Myrna added.  “Our little children, our teen agers have more than three times the probability of dying from cancer than their peers in the rest of Puerto Rico. We citizens depend on responsible action from the government to protect our rights to good health in a safe environment. We deserve the use of reliable, alternative, advanced technologies to repair this disaster.”

The National Academy of Sciences study is due to Congress in 18 months. 

Study: Conventional strawberries most contaminated with pesticides

Conventional strawberries top the Dirty Dozen list from the Environmental Working Group’s 2016 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.

For the past five years, apples had topped the list.

Nearly all strawberry samples — 98 percent — tested by federal officials had detectable pesticide residues, according to EWG.

Forty percent had residues of 10 or more pesticides and some had residues of 17 different pesticides. Some of the chemicals detected on strawberries are relatively benign but others are linked to cancer, reproductive and developmental damage, hormone disruption and neurological problems.

Strawberries were once a seasonal, limited crop, but heavy use of pesticides increased yields and stretched the growing season. In California, where most U.S. strawberries are grown, one acre can be treated with about 300 pounds of pesticides. More than 60 pounds are conventional chemicals that may leave post-harvest residues but most are fumigants — volatile poison gases that can drift into nearby schools and neighborhoods, according to EWG.

“It is startling to see how heavily strawberries are contaminated with residues of hazardous pesticides, but even more shocking is that these residues don’t violate the weak U.S. laws and regulations on pesticides in food,” said Sonya Lunder, EWG senior analyst. “The EPA’s levels of residues allowed on produce are too lax to protect Americans’ health. They should be updated to reflect new research that shows even very small doses of toxic chemicals can be harmful, particularly for young children.”

 

Recent studies of insecticides used on some fruits and vegetables, including strawberries, found children exposed to high levels were at greater risk of impaired intelligence and ADHD. Research also indicates the levels of pesticides in the bodies of elementary school children peaked during the summer, when they ate the most fresh produce. But after just five days on an organic diet, they were essentially pesticide-free.

The Dirty Dozen lists the fruits and vegetables that have been contaminated by multiple pesticides and which have higher concentrations of pesticides.

More than 98 percent of strawberries, peaches, nectarines and apples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue. The average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other produce.

Clean 15

Avocados, on the other hand, remained on the group’s Clean 15 list, with less than 1 percent of samples showing any detectable pesticides. No single fruit sample from the Clean 15 tested positive for more than four types of pesticides and very few for more than one.

The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, updated every year since 2004, ranks pesticide contamination on 48 popular fruits and vegetables. EWG’s analysis is based on results of more than 35,200 samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration. This year’s update found a total of 146 pesticides on fruit and vegetable samples tested in 2014 – residues that remain on produce even after items are washed and in some cases peeled.