Workers Allege Halliburton Knew Their Water Was Foul
Monday, January 23, 2006
Troops and civilians at a U.S. military base in Iraq were exposed to contaminated water last year, and employees for the responsible contractor, Halliburton Co., could not get their company to inform camp residents, according to interviews and internal company documents.
Halliburton, the company formerly headed by Vice President Cheney, disputes the allegations about water problems at Camp Junction City, in Ramadi, even though they were made by its own employees and documented in company e-mails.
"We exposed a base camp population (military and civilian) to a water source that was not treated," said a July 15, 2005, memo written by William Granger, the official for Halliburton's KBR subsidiary who was in charge of water quality in Iraq and Kuwait.
"The level of contamination was roughly 2x the normal contamination of untreated water from the Euphrates River," Granger wrote in one of several documents. The Associated Press obtained the documents from Senate Democrats who are holding a public inquiry into the allegations today.
Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.), who is scheduled to chair the session, held a number of similar inquiries last year on contracting abuses in Iraq. He said Democrats were acting on their own because they had not been able to persuade Republican committee chairmen to investigate.
Ben Carter, Halliburton's former water-treatment expert at Camp Junction City, said he discovered the problem last March, a statement confirmed by his e-mail the day after he tested the water. Though bottled water was available for drinking, the contaminated water was used for virtually everything else, including handwashing, laundry, bathing and making coffee, Carter said.
Another former Halliburton employee who worked at the base, Ken May of Louisville, said there were numerous instances of diarrhea and stomach cramps.
A spokeswoman for Halliburton said its own inspection found neither contaminated water nor medical evidence to substantiate reports of illnesses at the base.
The company now operates its own water-treatment plant there, spokeswoman Melissa Norcross said.
A military medical unit that visited Camp Ramadi in mid-April found nothing out of the ordinary in terms of water quality, said Marine Corps Maj. Tim Keefe, a military spokesman. Water-quality testing records from May 23 show the water within normal parameters, he said. "The allegations appear not to have merit," Keefe said.
Granger's July 15 memo said the exposure had gone on for "possibly a year" and added, "I am not sure if any attempt to notify the exposed population was ever made."
The first memo on the problem -- written by Carter to Halliburton officials on March 24, 2005 -- was an "incident report" from tests Carter performed the previous day.