HOUSTON (CN) – Kellogg, Brown & Root denied exposing contract workers and U.S. National Guardsmen to carcinogenic hexavalent chromium at a water plant in Basra and on oil pipelines and plants in Iraq, KBR attorneys said in a letter to the Houston Chronicle.
A pending federal arbitration complaint documents the workers’ allegations, who were sent to Iraq in April 2003 as part of Operation Restore Iraqi oil, a no-bid government contract awarded to KBR worth billions, the Chronicle reported.
Hexavalent chromium is used to keep pipes free of corrosion, and was spilled at the water plant, KBR officials told the Chronicle.
Although workers noticed an orange tint on sand around the base, and suffered respiratory problems and frequent nosebleeds when winds whipped the sand into their clothes and face, KBR’s lawyers said that “none of the workers had skin or nasal ulcers that would have been present if they had experienced significant (skin) contact with the chemical.”
KBR blamed the nosebleeds on high temperatures in Iraq, the Chronicle report.
The workers’ complaint will be heard in closed arbitration in March – closed at KBR’s request, according to the Chronicle.
Indiana-based National Guardsmen, who escorted and guarded the KBR contractors at the water plant, sued KBR in December.
Here is Courthouse News’ Dec. 4, 2008 report on that lawsuit.
Troops Says KBR Poisoned Them & Covered Up
By Emmalee Abel
EVANSVILLE, Ind. (CN) – KBR poisoned National Guardsmen say in Iraq and defrauded taxpayers by contaminating a water plant with hexavalent chromium, 16 soldiers say. KBR lied and covered up the carcinogenic poisoning even as the soldiers suffered repeated nosebleeds and spit blood, according to the federal complaint. Several guardsmen say they have developed lung tumors.
The 16 Indiana National Guardsmen from the Tell City post say KBR repeatedly lied to them and to investigators, claiming the soldiers must be “allergic to sand” though KBR “knew that the blood testing of American civilians exposed onsite confirmed elevated chromium levels.”
The allegations concern the Qarmat Ali water plant, one of the many projects KBR was awarded in its multibillion-dollar contracts in Iraq.
The soldiers claim that congressional hearings in June this year revealed KBR’s cover-up.
“Several of the Indiana National Guardsmen have already manifested respiratory system tumors characteristically associated with hexavalent chromium exposure,” the complaint states.
They are represented by David Cutshaw with Cohen & Malad.
This is the second such class action filed against KBR within a week. Courthouse News reported this class action on Tuesday (Dec. 2, 2008). Here is the CNS report on that case.
KBR Accused Of Endangering Troops
HOUSTON (CN) – A federal class action claims KBR and Halliburton exposed thousands of U.S. soldiers to contaminated water, rotten food, and medical waste in Iraq, in violation of its multibillion-dollar defense contracts. The plaintiff-soldiers say KBR gave troops ice shipped in trucks contaminated by corpses’ body fluids, “prevented their employees from speaking with government auditors and hid employees from auditors by moving them from bases when an audit was scheduled,” and adds, “Any employees that spoke with auditors were sent to more dangerous locations in Iraq as punishment.”
The plaintiffs say KBR provided the troops with water in containers, served them “rotten food,” including “eggs that were unsafe to eat … [which] caused salmonella poisoning,” and ice contaminated by body fluids from corpses.
They also claim “KBR charged the U.S. government for many more meals than were actually served and charged the U.S. government for food served to defendant KBR’s own employees.”
The plaintiffs are represented by Philip Werner with Werner Ayers.