WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 (HalliburtonWatch.org) -- Outrage overflowed on Capitol
Hill this summer when members of Congress learned that Halliburton's dining
halls in Iraq had repeatedly served spoiled food to unsuspecting troops. "This
happened quite a bit," testified
Rory Mayberry, a former food manager with Halliburton's KBR subsidiary.
But the outrage apparently doesn't end with spoiled food. Former KBR employees
and water quality specialists, Ben Carter and Ken May, told HalliburtonWatch
that KBR knowingly exposes troops and civilians to contaminated water from Iraq's
Euphrates River. One internal KBR email provided to HalliburtonWatch says that,
for "possibly a year," the level of contamination at one camp was
two times the normal level for untreated water.
"I discovered the water being delivered from the Euphrates for the military
was not being treated properly and thousands were being exposed daily to numerous
pathogenic organisms," Carter informed HalliburtonWatch.
Carter worked at Camp Ar Ramadi, located 70 miles west of Baghdad in the notoriously
violent Sunni Triangle, but he says water contamination problems exist throughout
Iraq's military camps. He helped manage KBR's Reverse Osmosis Water Purification
Unit (ROWPU), which is a water treatment system designed to produce potable
(drinkable) water from a variety of raw water sources such as lakes, lagoons
and rivers. ROWPU is supposed to provide the troops with clean water from Iraq's
William Granger of KBR Water Quality for Iraq reached this conclusion in an
email after investigating Carter's complaint: "Fact: We exposed a base
camp population (military and civilian) to a water source that was not treated.
The level of contamination was roughly 2x the normal contamination of untreated
water from the Euphrates River." Granger admitted that the contamination
was "most likely … ongoing through the entire life" of the camp,
but that he was "not sure if any attempt to notify the exposed population
was ever made."
In a company email last March to his superior, Harold "Mo" Orr, coordinator
for Halliburton's health and safety department said, "We have determined
that the military (Command Surgeon) has not given any kind of signoff on the
military ROWPU (As required by the military SOP) nor has KBR ever inquired about
this before. This was only discovered thru the investigation of possible contamination
by Ben Carter who is right now in charge of the ROWPU."
Orr's request for further investigation into the matter was overruled by KBR's
health, safety and environmental manager, Jay Delahoussaye, who said in an email
that the initial health hazard turned out to be "erroneous" and that
"corrective measures" were taken and "No KBR personnel were exposed
to contaminated water."
But Granger responded with another email, saying it was unclear whether corrective
action had been taken. He said it was "highly likely" that someone
from KBR finally started chlorinating the water this year, but that "there
is no documentation" to confirm it. Nor is there documentation to show
KBR is testing the water three times per day as required by the military, Granger
Nonetheless, Carter said chlorination is not enough to remedy the problem since
raw sewage is routinely dumped less than two miles from the water intake location,
in violation of military policy and procedure. "Chlorination of water tanks,
while certainly beneficial, is not sufficient protection from parasitic exposure,"
Carter said in an email to Granger, who is still employed with KBR.
According to Carter, Granger had written a scathing, 21-page report to KBR
management about water quality at Ar Ramadi. Carter says the report proves the
company's "incompetence and willful negligence" in protecting the
Granger has refused to comply with a company gag order and is convinced his
employment will be terminated soon, says Carter. In an email to Ken May, Granger
said, "I stand by all of my email's (internal or not). I have consistently
been dogged in my approach that protection of the soldier, contractor, and subcontractor
is paramount." In another email to Carter, Granger said he would support
Carter's legal actions and that he's looking into legal protections for himself
as a whistleblower. "I won't turn over any documents until I understand
what is protected or not ... but know that if called to testify or such that
I will disclose all that is in the report verbally," he said in the email.
Carter is in the process of obtaining worker's compensation from Halliburton
over an illness he says was caused by the contaminated water.
Soldiers are often evacuated out of Iraq for non-combat related illnesses.
The Association of Military Surgeons found
that 9.1 percent of soldiers evacuated in 2003 suffered from problems of the
digestive system; another 6.4 percent had nervous system disorders; 6.1% suffered
urological problems; and 8.3 percent suffered from unknown illnesses.
In the early months of the war, the Army sent a team of investigators to probe
a series of mysterious illnesses. Earlier this month, Canada reported
an outbreak of gastrointestinal problems among soldiers serving in Afghanistan,
where KBR is also involved.
Halliburton spokesperson, Melissa Norcross, told HalliburtonWatch that the
water contamination allegations are "unfounded" and that "KBR
has conducted its own inspection of the water at the site in question and has
found no evidence to substantiate the allegations made by these former employees."
Norcross confirmed that non-potable (non-drinkable) water "was produced"
at Ar Ramadi at the time of the camp's inception until May 2005, but that the
military approved its use for showering and doing laundry. "During that
time, bottled water was used for drinking and food preparation," she said.
Carter and May agree that KBR supplies bottled water for drinking, but that
it's "absolutely untrue" that it's used for food preparation. Moreover,
they never observed any posted signs or notices informing personnel not to drink
the tap water, a possible sign of corporate negligence.
Of a possible sign of things to come, May said he observed an unsecured potable
water tank used for food preparation at a dining facility. The bolts used to
tighten the lid over the tank were missing. In an email to HalliburtonWatch,
May said the tank was located in an open area "for anyone to enter, including
the enemy." He worries that "contaminants/poisons could be introduced
which could result in mass casualties."
Additionally, May said he and another KBR employee witnessed water being filled
through an open lid on top of the water tank, thereby rendering the once potable
water as non-potable. "Water is required to be pumped into the tank through
a male/female hose hook-up with no direct exposure to the air," May said.
Failure to do so would result in exposing the camp population to non-potable
water. May and Carter say they notified KBR's quality assurance and quality
control department, including Chief of Services Warren Smith, but no remedial
action was taken.
Today, Norcross says KBR supplies clean drinking water throughout Camp Ar Ramadi,
but that "For drinking and food preparation, KBR continues to supply bottled
water throughout Iraq." She insists that "there have been no documented
cases of unusual illnesses or health conditions" at Ar Ramadi.
But a private company email supplied to HalliburtonWatch appears to conflict
with Halliburton's public denial. Halliburton public relations official, Jennifer
Dellinger, wrote to her colleagues that Faith Sproul, who works in Halliburton's
workers' compensation department, "does believe that initial tests showed
some contamination to be present." As a result, Dellinger wrote, Sproul
was concerned that former employees might "make a claim for disability"
and "we could receive some queries on this if these former employees decide
to go to the press." So, Dellinger asked her public relations colleagues,
"Can you run some traps on this and see what you can find out?"
When HalliburtonWatch asked about this internal email and its apparent confirmation
of Carter and May's allegations, Norcross responded by saying the email was
written last July, prior to the company's final determination that no contamination
Carter resigned two weeks prior to Ken May, discovering what he said was "unsafe
water and pressure to cover it up." "I tried to correct the problem,
only to be blackballed by management and I eventually left this employment,"
Carter told HalliburtonWatch. Carter and May cite "poor company behavior
patterns and practices from Site Management as the tell-tale sign of disaster
looming around the corner if intervention is not taken very soon."
KBR's health and safety manager at Ar Ramadi, Harold Orr, also resigned because
of the water issue but has remained silent, says May.
Carter and May also describe instances where a site manager urged everyone
to conceal contamination information from the company's health and safety department.
According to May, statements were made in an "All Hands Meeting" by
then Site Manger Suzanne-Raku Williams, Warren Smith, and acting Medic Phillip
Daigle suggesting that if anyone became sick, it was probably from the handles
from the port-a-lets toilets and not from water contamination. In response,
Ken May resigned out of disgust and frustration. In an email to superiors, he
chastised KBR for what he said was "retaliatory behavior from dishonest
site management" and "inaction" that "compromised"
camp safety and the health of the people who work there. He expressed concern
over "the lack of oversight from the outside to investigate, redirect,
and periodically monitor" the water to assure a healthy workplace. "Unfortunately,
because of the lack of regards for my wellbeing [and] no response or action
from KBR/Halliburton I have no recourse other than to resign," he said
in an email to his supervisor.
Carter and May's experience is not uncommon at KBR, where former employees
have described instances of being ostracized or terminated if they dare to speak
out against company negligence, mismanagement or malfeasance. Other former KBR
employees have testified
about being fired or urged to quit or conceal information after pointing out
low-cost solutions to simple problems. But, a cynic might note, allowing small
problems to grow into expensive ones through purposeful neglect actually boosts
KBR's profits as there is a profit guarantee of 1% to 3% over cost for the LOGCAP
III contract. As with all of KBR's "cost plus" military contracts,
the more expensive the problem, the greater the fee paid to KBR from the government.
So, it would seem there is actually a built-in incentive not to prevent small
problems or reward whistleblower employees like Carter and May when neglect
will result in a costlier problem down the road and more profits for KBR.