More questionable practices by Halliburton in Iraq


    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.

    Halliburton,
    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
    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
    Monday.

    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.

    The
    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.

    Another
    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
    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.

    Halliburton
    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.

    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.

    “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.

    The
    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.

    “I
    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
    to respond.”

    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/

    Halliburton: http://www.halliburton.com

    © 2006 The Associated Press