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Democrats hold hearing on KBR's Iraq water contamination
7 April 2006

WASHINGTON, April 7 (HalliburtonWatch.org) -- The Senate Democratic Policy Committee (DPC) held a hearing today on allegations that Halliburton and its KBR subsidiary have knowingly exposed thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq to hazardous levels of unhealthy water from the Euphrates River, including human fecal matter. The allegations, made by current and former Halliburton employees involved in water quality maintenance, were first disclosed by HalliburtonWatch last September. Visit this link to read the HalliburtonWatch report.

"Everyone knows that drinking, or washing with poop is bad for you," Jeffrey K. Griffiths, MD, Professor of Public Health and Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, told the committee. "The reasons are so obvious we consider them common sense," he said.

But "common sense" is not always a virtue at Halliburton, if whistleblowers and military personnel in Iraq are to be believed.

Capt. Michelle Callahan, MD, a U.S. army surgeon in Iraq with the 101st Sustainment Brigade, told the committee in an email that water containing human fecal matter and other human waste was being re-circulated by Halliburton back into the non-potable water supply used by the troops for showering, brushing teeth, shaving, washing clothes, and preparing food and coffee. According to Callahan, "concentrate reject was being used to fill the water tanks."

After finding coliform bacteria and e-coli in the the water, Callahan said a Halliburton official informed employees that, "there's not a problem with it."

Callahan also stated that, after discovering KBR was filling the water with waste water concentrate, the same official informed employees that, "This was the way KBR always treated the water."

"I had a sudden increase in soldiers with bacterial infections presenting to me for treatment," Callahan told the committee in her email. "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," she said.

An internal Halliburton report leaked to the committee and authored by the company's Iraq water quality manager admitted that, "No disinfection to non-potable water was occurring [at Camp Ar Ramadi] for water designated for showering purposes. This caused an unknown population to be exposed to potentially harmful water for an undetermined amount of time."

"This event should be considered a 'NEAR MISS,'" the Halliburton report warned, "as the consequences of these actions could have been VERY SEVERE resulting in mass sickness or death" (emphasis in the original). The report added, "The deficiencies of the camp where the event occurred is (sic) not exclusive to that camp; meaning that country-wide, all camps suffer to some extent from all or some of the deficiencies noted."

The report laments that, "The likelihood of a similar event is considered high if no actions to correct widespread program deficiencies are taken."

So far, Halliburton management has denied a problem even exists and declined to appear at today's congressional hearing.

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-SD), the committee's chairman, said, "This report, made by an employee of the Halliburton Corporation to the Halliburton Corporation, and previously not made available [to the public], establishes there was indeed serious contamination of the non-potable water provided to our troops, not only at camp Ar Ramadi, but throughout the U.S. military camps in Iraq."

After reviewing Halliburton's internal water report, Dr. Griffiths told the committee that the source water used at Ar Ramadi was "highly polluted" and "highly likely to make [the troops] sick." He said the troops "would have been better off with water [taken] directly out of the Euphrates River," which the doctor described as an "open sewer." That's because Halliburton's non-potable water was not chlorinated or filtered to remove parasites, amoebas and viruses that cause various illnesses including dysentery, an inflammatory disorder of the lower intestinal tract that causes fever, severe diarrhea, vomiting and often "pooping of blood." Dr. Griffiths pointed out that "in many if not most wars, dysentery has killed more soldiers than has combat."

KBR instructs the troops not to drink the non-potable water, but claims it is safe for showering. But Dr. Griffiths said showering with KBR's untreated water is still dangerous because ingestion of diseases can occur through the mouth and skin.

Anticipating that Dorgan's criticism could create a public relations problem, Halliburton attempted to deter the senator by sending a second internal report to his office the night before the hearing, which contradicted the first internal on-site report and purportedly "exonerates" (as Dorgan put it) the company. But this second report admits that, "KBR (Halliburton) lacked an organizational structure to ensure that water was being treated in accordance with Army standards in its contractual requirements."

This admission that Halliburton failed to ensure that its work met contract specifications is just the latest in a long list of violations that members of Congress say should lead to the company's suspension and debarment.

Nevertheless, both Halliburton and the Pentagon have denied that a serious problem exists.

"This is really pretty unbelievable to me," Dorgan said in response to denials by Halliburton and the Pentagon. "I understand no one wants to take responsibility. No one ever wants to be accountable for anything," he said. "We now know that those denials were wrong and Halliburton and the Pentagon would have known them to be wrong."

Thanks to Dorgan's efforts, after initially resisting calls for an investigation into the matter, the Pentagon in March announced that it will conduct a formal inquiry. But, like most of the federal investigations into Halliburton's alleged wrongdoing, the Pentagon's inquiry will likely be stalled or swept under the rug.

Download the audio of today's hearing by clicking this link.

Check back to HalliburtonWatch in the future for further updates on this issue.

Witnesses at Today's Hearing

Jeffrey K. Griffiths (click here to read testimony)
Professor of Public Health and Medicine
Tufts University School of Medicine

Matthew Harrison (click here to read testimony)
Captain, U.S. Army Dental Corps (ret'd)

Richard Murphy (click here to read testimony)
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Witnesses biography

Halliburton's internal report titled: "Report of Findings & Root Cause, Water Mission B4 Ar Ramadi"

Email From Michelle Callahan to the Democratic Policy Committee, March 31, 2006