Controversial military contractor KBR has racked up quite a record of endangering the lives of U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq. Over the years, the former Halliburton subsidiary has been accused of everything from giving troops ice tainted with “traces of body fluids and putrefied remains” to ignoring warnings of unsafe wiring that led to troop deaths.
Earlier this month, attorneys for 16 members of the Indiana National Guard filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging that they “knowingly exposed the soldiers to a cancer-causing toxic chemical.” In a special report last night, CBS News revealed that KBR knew of the toxic exposure to hexavalent chromium long before it informed the guardsmen:
Now CBS News has obtained information that indicates KBR knew about the danger months before the soldiers were ever informed.
Depositions from KBR employees detailed concerns about the toxin in one part of the plant as early as May of 2003. And KBR minutes, from a later meeting state “that 60 percent of the people … exhibit symptoms of exposure,” including bloody noses and rashes.
Gentry says it wasn’t until the last day of August in 2003 – after four long months at the facility – that he was told the plant was contaminated.
After receiving a briefing on the case on Monday, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) told CBS that “KBR has a lot to answer for“:
“Look, I think the burden of proof at this point is on the company,” Bayh said. “To come forward and very forthrightly explain what happened, why we should trust them, and why the health and well-being of our soldiers should continue to be in their hands.”
In a statement to CBS, the company denied all charges, saying, “We deny the assertion that KBR harmed troops and was responsible for an unsafe condition.” According to CNN, “an estimated 275 American soldiers may have been exposed to the chemical” at the KBR water plant, “over a period of months through mid- to late-2003.”