DoD’s Culpability For Contamination



I am trying to document when the Department of Defense (DoD) knew or suspected it had a problem with environmental contamination at its facilities, installations, or bases.

To do this, I am trying to find the earliest DoD reports or documents that address specific environmental contamination or health hazards at the DoD’s installations. e.g., Radiation, Trichloroethylene, Burn pits, Incinerators, and …

Burn pits or incinerators

Known carcinogens and respiratory sensitizers are released into the atmosphere by the burn pits and incinerators present both acute and chronic health hazards to civilians, and military personnel and their family members.  A list of possible contaminants includes: acetaldehyde, acrolein, arsenic, benzene, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, dichlorofluoromethane, dioxins, ethylbenzene, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, various heavy metals (lead, cadmium, and mercury), nitrogen dioxide, phosgene, sulfuric acid, sulfur dioxide, toluene, trichloroethane, trichloropropane, and xylene.

– Burn Pit Health Hazards Memo – 20 December 2006 – Air Force

Chlordane and other organochlorine pesticides (“OCPs”)

1970 – The Air Force knew that some of the Webb Air Force Base Family Housing units, located in Big Spring Texas, were contaminated with and the occupants exposed to a large quantity of chlordane. The Air Force knew that due to the method used to apply the pesticide, the building design flaw, that a completed exposure pathway (CEP) existed at a large percentage of its tenantable/habitual structures, exposure of the occupants was possible at ALL of the Air Forces’ Family Housing units.

– Chlordane Contamination of Government Quarters and Personal Property Webb AFB TX

(War Department Technical Manual 5-634, October 1946, § III), sets forth the mandatory requirement not to select sites which have surface or sub-surface drainage to the water supply. Requires that waste disposal must not contribute to a public nuisance, with specific reference to water. *

Prior to 1950, it was common knowledge that groundwater could be polluted and that the pollution could travel great distances from the site of the original contamination. Further, it was generally known prior to that time that percolation, a process by which substances disposed of would leach into the underlying groundwater, could occur and that groundwater needed to be protected from deleterious leachates.

(AFM 88-11 Chapter 5, § 504C) requires that the location of the fill should be such that run-off can be disposed of without polluting surface or sub-surface water supplies. *

Executive Order 11288. Prevention, control, and abatement of water pollution by Federal activities. Signed: July 2, 1966


Engineering Service Request No. 21-696-350 – September 1984 – Navy
Navy document acknowledging contamination of Lake Michigan with lead from its firearms training range but stating it need take action only if it transferred the property from federal control. Instead of cleaning it up it transferred it to the FBI who still violates the environmental law by not cleaning it up.


Technical Order 00-110A-1, “Radioactive Waste Disposal” – AF – 25 May 1956
A FOIA request has been filed for this document.
Land burial of radioactive waste was authorized with specified procedures to be followed including identification of the location on appropriate maps and fencing to prevent the entry of unauthorized personnel. However, procedures to be followed for maintaining burial sites already in existence were not specified.

Technical Order 00-110N-2, “Radioactive Waste Disposal” – AF – Date?
A FOIA request has been filed for this document.
The disposition of solid radioactive waste is strictly controlled and burial was not authorized without specific approval of the USAF Radioisotope Committee, AFLC.

-Hq USAF survey letter – Radioactive Waste Disposal, Hq, SCN 71-28 -AF – 19 Feb 71

– Burial of Radioactive Waste in the USAF – AF – 1972

Trichloroethylene (TCE)

The appropriate standard of care in waste disposal in the 1950s was to treat TCE as a hazardous substance in disposing of the contaminant so as not to pollute groundwater. *

Clark v. United States, No. C85-97TB (660 F. Supp. 1164) (W.D. Wash. April 20, 1987)
McChord AF base held liable for negligence and emotional distress for TCE contamination of drinking water wells.  TCE leached from AF golf course in Washington. AF negligence caused diminution in value of plaintiff’s property. …

Removal Of Trichloroethylene Contamination From Drinking Water At A [Pease AFB, NH] USAF Installation – AF – 31 July 1978

If anyone has found a document with an earlier publication date, could you please send me a link to the document?

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* Clark v. United States, No. C85-97TB (660 F. Supp. 1164) (W.D. Wash. April 20, 1987)

I am not a doctor or attorney, and cannot give medical advice or legal advice.

If you, a friend, or loved one has been injured or died as a result of the contamination at a DOD Superfund Site please follow the steps that are outlined at Get Help.

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do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency of the U.S. government

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