USA Navy stop poisoning the people of Vieques, Puerto Rico, Use closed detonation chambers

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Pepe Rossy
Pepe Rossy signed this petition

The island of Vieques, Puerto Rico is home to 9,300 American citizens. In the 1940s the U.S. Navy expropriated 2/3 of this Caribbean island, installed a large munitions depot in one end, a bombing range on the other and relocated all the inhabitants in between these. For the next 60 years the Navy bombed the target range from jets, ships, and helicopters; experimented with new weapons systems; invited NATO and other allies to also practice bombing and mock invasions; and rented the live impact area to private companies to experiment with new weapon systems, all this, just a few miles from the civilian area. The Navy has admitted to using napalm, depleted uranium and other very toxic chemicals on the island.


James Porter, Distinguished professor at Georgia U., estimates that over 60 years the U.S. and its allies dropped about a trillion pounds of explosives in Vieques.  As a result, this island of unique natural beauty, home to several endangered species, has widespread contamination with heavy metals and other toxins (e.g., mercury, lead, cadmium, depleted uranium, arsenic, as well as several known carcinogens). These contaminants are associated with significantly higher rates of cancer, asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic diseases in Vieques, than in the rest of Puerto Rico. The former Weapons Training Site is now a Superfund Site on the “National Priorities List”


Although the Navy agreed to stop all bombing and clean up the site in 2003, its “CLEANUP” EFFORTS MOSTLY CONSIST OF OPEN-AIR BURNING AND DETONATIONS (OB/OD) OF UNEXPLODED ORDNANCE, WHICH MAKES THE TOXINS ON THE GROUND AIRBORNE, FURTHER EXACERBATING MEDICAL CONDITIONS IN AN ALREADY VULNERABLE POPULATION.  A report from the Congressional Research Service found that closed detonation methods such as “burn trays and blast boxes” are effective at containing pollutants and toxic emissions during military cleanup efforts. In January 2019, the National Academies of Sciences Engineering, and Medicine in its final report concluded that contained detonation chambers is a mature and effective technology to reduce pollution. This is not “pie in the sky,” such technologies are being used to clean up unexploded ordnance in more than a dozen sites in the United States.


The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (NDAA), as passed by the House of Representatives, contains a provision, introduced by Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, to provide $10 million for the purchase and use of closed detonation chambers in Vieques. This allocation is important to ALL Americans as it will set a critical precedent for communities, soldiers and workers at other bases around the nation who are also being exposed to toxic emissions from open air burning and detonation of munitions.


After decades of bombing exercises by our military resulted in severe harm to Vieques, we owe it to our fellow U.S. citizens on the island to clean up after ourselves in a safe, responsible way. As you finalize the NDAA, we urge you to include the House provision that provides funding for a safe Vieques cleanup. Thank you for your consideration of this request.