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Dirty Water Still Making Troops Sick

Muckraker.com | April 8 2006

Here's a story that bears revisiting -- with some urgency. Back in January, the AP reported that Halliburton was providing U.S. troops serving in Ramadi, Iraq, with dirty water. The soldiers bathed in it, washed their clothes in it, even made coffee with it. They got sick as a result.

On Jan. 23, Senate Democrats held a hearing on the matter. The story was picked up by hundreds of news outlets. Outrage ensued. The water quality at the Ramadi base improved.

But it's happened again -- this time at the Qayyarah Airfield, about 300 kilometers north of Baghdad. As an Army physician at the base wrote in a March 31 email to Senate investigators:

In January I noticed the water in our Showering facility was cloudy and had a foul odor. At the same time (over a 2 week period) I had a sudden increase in soldiers with bacterial infections presenting to me for treatment. All of these soldiers live in the same living area (PAD 103) and use the same water to shower. I had 4 cases of skin abcesses, 1 case of cellulitis, and one case of bacterial conjunctivitis.
The doctor's colleagues investigated. They discovered that workers from Halliburton's Kellogg Brown and Root division were "filling the water storage tanks with ROWPU concentrate."

ROWPU concentrate is what's left over after the contractor purifies water for drinking. First they pump water from the Tigris river; then they purify half of it for drinking. Then they pump the rest into tanks the troops use to bathe, do laundry, make coffee. That water contained twice the concentration of waste and bacteria of Tigris riverwater -- which is a far cry from Evian to begin with.

After the doctor and her colleagues made formal complaints, investigations were launched and KBR improved the water at the facility.

But here's the problem: the doctor who wrote the email only traced the problem to the dirty water because her mother had first read a January article on the problem, and told her about it. With so many servicepeople stationed around the region, are there other instances of this shameful treatment out there which haven't been discovered?

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