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, couldn’t get their company to inform camp
residents, according to interviews and internal company documents.
the company formerly headed by Vice President Dick 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
“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.
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
Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who will 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.
company’s former water treatment expert at Camp Junction City said that
he discovered the problem last March, a statement confirmed by his
e-mail the day after he tested the water.
While bottled water was
available for drinking, the contaminated water was used for virtually
everything else, including handwashing, laundry, bathing and making
coffee, said water expert Ben Carter of Cedar City, Utah.
former Halliburton employee who worked at the base, Ken May of
Louisville, said there were numerous instances of diarrhea and stomach
cramps _ problems he also suffered.
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
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.
has contracts to provide a number of services to U.S. forces in Iraq
and was responsible for the water quality at the base in Ramadi.
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.
“It is my opinion
that the water source is without question contaminated with numerous
micro-organisms, including Coliform bacteria,” Carter wrote. “There is
little doubt that raw sewage is routinely dumped upstream of intake
much less than the required 2 mile distance.
“Therefore, it is my
conclusion that chlorination of our water tanks while certainly
beneficial is not sufficient protection from parasitic exposure.”
Carter said he resigned in early April after Halliburton officials did not take any action to inform the camp population.
water expert said he told company officials at the base that they would
have to notify the military. “They told me it was none of my concern
and to keep my mouth shut,” he said.
On at least one occasion,
Carter said, he spoke to the chief military surgeon at the base, asking
him whether he was aware of stomach problems afflicting people. He said
the surgeon told him he would look into it.
“They brushed it under the carpet,” Carter said. “I told everyone, ‘Don’t take showers, use bottled water.”
A July 14, 2005, memo showed that Halliburton’s public relations department knew of the problem.
don’t want to turn it into a big issue right now,” staff member
Jennifer Dellinger wrote in the memo, “but if we end up getting some
media calls I want to make sure we have all the facts so we are ready
Halliburton’s performance in Iraq has been
criticized in a number of military audits, and congressional Democrats
have contended that the Bush administration has favored the company
with noncompetitive contracts.
On the Net:
Senate Democratic Policy Committee: http://democrats.senate.gov/dpc/