Yet, according to whistleblower Ben Carter, a former Halliburton/KBR water purification specialist, that treatment protocol wasn’t done for troops. Carter claims that he discovered Halliburton was providing dangerously contaminated water to troops with serious long-term health implications (1).
In a video excerpt from the Brave New Films documentary, Iraq for Sale, Carter states that Halliburton was contracted to provide “cook, cleaning and shower water” for the military. Carte describes how a Halliburton employee came to him concerned about seeing “something moving in the toilet bowl”.
Carter started investigating and says he discovered that 63 of the 67 water treatment plants that Halliburton was contracted to provide purification treatment weren’t being treated. Carter says he tested the systems and discovered these plants didn’t have any chlorine in the water. Without treatment, those using the water were at risk of contracting malaria, typhus and numerous pathogens that could be in their blood without them knowing it.
When he tried to alert the military of the untreated water, Carter says that he was told by Halliburton that the military was none of his concern.
Discussing how the US military troops were exposed to numerous pathogens was an emotional point for Carter; he broke down during the filming of his interview. He stated that young men and women in the military had been exposed to pathogens that could harm them and their families. What compounded this fact was that they didn’t know they needed to be tested for various pathogens in their blood as a result of this exposure.
In 2006, the company faced many accusations of corruption and padding military contract expenses, yet Congressional action was voted down and no action or charges were ever filed against the company (2).
2006 Water Contamination by Halliburton Company
In January 2006, the Washington Post reported that allegations had been made against Halliburton, the government contractor responsible for water treatment for US troops and civilians on a military base. Vice President Cheney formerly headed up the company. Halliburton denied the allegations about the contaminated water at the Ramadi base, Camp Junction City (3).
Company employees provided internal company emails/documents and gave statements that the company ignored their pleas to notify the camp residents of the water purification problems.
The Post published a July 15, 2005 memo authored by Halliburton official William Granger. The memo was one of several documents obtained by the Associated Press (AP) from the “Senate Democrats” conducting an inquiry into the allegations of Halliburton’s wrongdoings.
In the memo, Granger discusses the Halliburton’s KBR subsidiary that was in charge of the water quality for Iraq and Kuwait.
Granger writes, “We exposed a base camp population (military and civilian) to a water source that was not treated.”
More condemning information Granger revealed in the memo followed, “The level of contamination was roughly 2x the normal contamination of untreated water from the Euphrates River.”
Halliburton and Military Inspections Contradict Carter’s Claims
Subsequent inspections by Halliburton contradicted Carter’s claim with no evidence of contaminated water or medical evidence of illnesses.
Ken May, former Halliburton employee working on the base reported there were “instances of diarrhea and stomach cramps.”
Yet, Halliburton’s official had written the incriminating memo also stating that the water contamination had lasted for “possibly a year”. Granger also wrote that he wasn’t sure if there’d been any “attempt to notify the exposed population was ever made.”
Carter’s memo informing the company about the lack of water treatment states, “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 2 mile distance.”
Carter went on to say that chlorination wasn’t enough to prevent parasitic exposure to the people on the base. When Halliburton officials failed to inform those on the base, Carter resigned.
Carter Sues Halliburton
In 2013, Carter sued Halliburton and KBR for providing contaminated water to the military base in Iraq (4).
The first ruling in the case by US District Judge James Cacheris was a dismissal based on “under the first-to-file rule and statute of limitations.” However, a three-judge panel reversed that decision based on the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act (WSLA) that doesn’t bind Carter to a time limitation (5).
Project On Government Oversight (POGO) reported in January 2015 that the US Supreme Court is holding KBR and Halliburton (parent company until 2007) accountable as contractors. The companies attempted to have three lawsuits against them for “harming service members and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan” dismissed (6).
The Supreme Court ruled that the lawsuits will “proceed to trial”. One lawsuit states “dozens of US military personnel and civilian employees claim they suffered harm as a result of KBR’s waste disposal and water treatment practices on military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The allegations made in the lawsuit accuse the company of burning “large quantities of solid waste in toxin-spewing open-air burn pits and provided contaminated water.”
Another lawsuit seeks accountability for the death of Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth, electrocuted in 2008 while showering at an Iraq base. KBR and Halliburton were responsible for the shower facilities.
The third lawsuit brought by “American and British soldiers” alleges that “KBR knowingly exposed them to the hazardous chemical sodium dichromate while they were posted at the Qarmat Ali water treatment facility in Iraq in 2003.”
With these three lawsuits and Ben Carter’s lawsuit being given the go ahead to trial, some feel that the shield that has protected government contractors from accountability will be removed.
References & Image Credits:
(1) Brave New Films
(2) TSW: Recent Win Halliburton Whistleblower Harry Barko
(3) Washington Post
(4) Halliburton Sued for Providing Contimated Water
(7) Wikipedia: Halliburton Images
(8) Image Water Purification