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Huge Military Toxic Cleanup Fund Urged

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A national environmental group Wednesday urged Congress and President Bush to enact a $100-billion legislative package to pay for cleaning up thousands of hazardous waste sites at U.S. military bases.

The Boston-based National Toxic Campaign Fund released a report holding that there are more than 14,000 likely pollution sites at 1,579 Army, Navy and Air Force bases across the United States.

According to the group’s report, which it said was based in part on Department of Defense data, the Pentagon produced 900 million pounds of hazardous waste and 17 billion pounds of waste water, much of it toxic, in 1989.

About 100 of the sites listed by the group are on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund list of unusually hazardous waste sites qualifying for special federal cleanup assistance. Potential funding for the other sites is limited.

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The group called on Congress to consider appropriating $10 billion during each of the next 10 years to clean up pollution on the bases and to study ways to prevent the problem from recurring.

“We believe it is time for the Pentagon to stop the chemical war at home,” said Toxic Campaign Fund President John O’Connor. “We have troops coming back that faced chemical attack and now face a toxic threat on Army bases.”

California has 1,713 potentially toxic sites at military bases, the largest number of any state, according to the report. Virginia ranked second, with 812.

The organization called 42 press conferences across the country Wednesday to outline its report. Four were in California, including one at a Lockheed facility in Burbank.

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“Lockheed has been a major polluter for years, causing extensive contamination of the soil and ground water from their plants,” Jim Jenal, director of the clean air program for Citizens for a Better Environment, a Venice-based group, said in a statement.

The National Toxic Campaign Fund noted that the Pentagon has allocated less than 0.5% of its total budget for toxic site cleanup. The $10-billion annual outlays proposed by the organization would increase that figure to about 3%.

Glenn Flood, a Pentagon spokesman, said that the Pentagon budgeted about $900 million during the current fiscal year for toxic waste sites and has requested $1.3 billion in its 1992 budget, which totals $300 billion.

Flood predicted that about half of the sites the Department of Defense has listed as possibly toxic would be removed from the list by the end of 1991.

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“From the policy level, a (toxic) site is anything from a bucket of paint that’s in a locker spilling out to . . . the situation at Rocky Mountain Arsenal,” Ford said.

Toxic chemicals used in the manufacture of deadly nerve gas have leaked into the ground water of communities surrounding the Rocky Mountain Arsenal near Denver. Nearby residents have been supplied with bottled water by the military since last year.

Bennie Muniz, a spokesman for People Against Toxic Hazards, a Colorado citizens’ group, charged that the toxicity of the Rocky Mountain site has caused her sister to develop a terminal form of a rare cancer. “The cancer is out of control,” she said, fighting back tears.

The National Toxic Campaign Fund said that the military, like private companies, should be made accountable to the EPA for violations of hazardous waste law.

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The environmental group called on the Pentagon to compensate those whose health or property has been damaged by military toxic wastes.


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