Secrecy News

DoD Says It Still Needs Open Burn Pits

The use of open pit burning for disposal of hazardous waste, medical waste, tires or plastic can present a threat to human health and safety, as well as causing other environmental damage. So as a rule, the practice is “strictly prohibited” by Department of Defense regulations.

But there are exceptions to the rule. And DoD continues to rely on open pit burning for waste disposal in some of its contingency operations abroad, according to a new DoD report to Congress.

Specifically, DoD identified a total of nine locations where open pit burning of waste continued this year: seven in Syria, one in Afghanistan, and one in Egypt. See Department of Defense Open Burn Pit Report to Congress, April 2019.

By way of justification, the DoD report said that “In countries such as Iraq, Syria, or Afghanistan it is common practice to burn waste in open pits.”

And while alternative approaches would be welcome, the Pentagon has other fish to fry. “The Department’s strategic investments are focused on providing a more lethal force, vice investment in costly support systems.”

“No technology or equipment solution has been devised that could eliminate all waste burning requirements for every contingency location,” the report to Congress said.

The new DoD report was obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. A provision of the pending FY2020 defense appropriations bill would require DoD in the future to “post on a public website any report required to be submitted to Congress with certain exceptions.”