U.S. Democrats highlight water quality issues for troops in Iraq

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

According to former employees of the Halliburton subsidiary KBR and internal company documents, coalition troops at a U.S. military base in Iraq may have been exposed to contaminated water and the company purportedly blocked efforts to alert the U.S. military.

"We exposed a base camp population (military and civilian) to a water source that was not treated," reads a July 15, 2005 memo by William Granger, KBR's official in charge of water quality in Iraq and also Kuwait.

"The level of contamination was roughly two times the normal contamination of untreated water from the Euphrates River," Granger said in documents distributed amongst the press by Democrats, who are holding a public inquiry into the allegations.

Halliburton issued a statement stating it had found "no evidence to substantiate allegations made by these former employees."

Ken May, another former KBR employee, said that instances of diarrhea and stomach cramps were numerous.

Halliburton stated that their own inspection found no contaminated water, and no medical evidence to substantiate the claims of illness. According to Marine Corps Major Tim Keefe – a military spokesman – a military medical unit found nothing out of the ordinary with regards to the water quality. Keefe stated, "The allegations appear not to have merit."

Water expert Ben Carter, of Cedar City, Utah, wrote, "It is my opinion that the water source is without question contaminated with numerous micro-organisms, including Coliform bacteria. There is little doubt that raw sewage is routinely dumped upstream of intake much less than the required two mile distance."

Carter said that after he told company officials that they should notify the military, "They told me it was none of my concern and to keep my mouth shut," he said.

"They brushed it under the carpet," Carter said. "I told everyone, 'Don't take showers, use bottled water.'"

According to a July 14, 2005 report authored by Jennifer Dellinger, it is claimed that Halliburton's public relations department was aware of the problem, a statement from the department is claimed to state, "I don't want to turn it into a big issue right now, but if we end up getting some media calls I want to make sure we have all the facts so we are ready to respond."