PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – Five National Guardsmen say military contractor KBR knowingly exposed them to hexavalent chromium during restoration of an Iraqi water facility. The men say that when they developed “chrome nose” bleeding, KBR brushed off the telltale sign, claiming that they were allergic to sand.
Rocky Bixby, Lawrence Roberta, Scott Ashby, Charles Ellis and Matthew Hadley claim that KBR’s southern Iraq Health Safety Environment manager knew about the contamination in May 2003, but the company kept them working, and in the dark, for 4 more months.
KBR allegedly conducted a full-site analysis to identify hazards in April 2003, and billed the government for that work. KBR even continued operation for an extra month after 60 percent of onsite workers reported symptoms of acute poising, the plaintiffs say.
By late July, many workers suffered “continuous bloody noses, spitting up blood coughing, shortness of breath, and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and lungs.”
KBR allegedly ignored repeated warnings of the site’s contamination and refused to provide workers with protective gear.
When KBR managers shut down the site in September 2003, they inspected the site in full “Level C” environmental protection gear, but still left workers unprotected, the complaint states.
A U.S. civilian worker learned about the contamination from his Iraqi interpreter, but KBR management told him his complaints were not appreciated and that he’d “be better off going home,” according to the complaint.
KBR safety managers allegedly claimed that the chemical is “a mild irritant, at worst.”
People who have been exposed to hexavalent chromium have a 1 in 5 chance of developing cancer, the lawsuit states.
The plaintiffs say they provided security for the water treatment facility restoration project, and that KBR also exposed U.S. civilians doing the restoration work and British troops to the toxic chemical.
The soldiers sued KBR, Kellogg Brown & Root Service, KBR Technical Services, Overseas Administration Services Ltd. and Service Employees International
The plaintiffs are represented in Multnomah County Court by David Sugerman.