CHEYENNE - Two Cheyenne airmen have filed a lawsuit alleging that open-air trash burning by defense department contractors near bases where they were stationed in Iraq has damaged their health.
Senior Master Sgt. Glen S. Massman and Staff Sgt. Wendy L. McBreairty filed the lawsuit Wednesday in state district court in Cheyenne. According to a press release, other veterans have filed similar lawsuits in courts around the country.
The Cheyenne lawsuit names four companies as defendants: KBR Inc.; Kellogg, Brown & Root Services Inc.; Kellogg, Brown & Root LLC; and Halliburton. Spokesmen for the companies say they haven't reviewed any of the lawsuits and can't comment.
Massman and McBreairty charge in their lawsuit that the open-air burn pits emitted toxic fumes, smoke and ash near military camps and bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, beginning in 2004 and continuing today.
They charge that military personnel were exposed to the emissions. They say that created health problems ranging from headaches and respiratory problems to cancer and death.
Waste burned in the pits included trucks, tires, latrine waste, asbestos insulation and "hundreds and hundreds of thousands of plastic water bottles," according to the suit. It said that burning plastic emits dioxins, which cause cancer.
"KBR knew or should have known that operating vast open-air burn pits jeopardized the health and safety of thousands of Americans," attorney Elizabeth Burke said in a statement.
"The hazards of operating large open-air burn pits were well known," Burke said. "KBR showed an utter disregard for the safety of the troops when they chose to use open-air burn pits and failed to use incinerators and other safer methods of waste disposal."
Heather L. Browne, spokeswoman for KBR, released a statement saying the company hasn't reviewed the complaints and couldn't comment on specifics.
"The general assertion, however, that KBR knowingly harmed soldiers or contractors is unfounded," Browne stated. "The safety and security of all employees and those the company serves remains KBR's top priority."
Cathy Mann, a spokeswoman for Halliburton, also released a statement saying the company hasn't been served with any of the lawsuits and can't comment on their specific allegations. She said that if the allegations are based on KBR's activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, then Halliburton wouldn't be responsible.
Massman alleges that he was exposed to smoke, haze and fumes from burn pits while stationed at Camp Bucca, Iraq in 2006 and 2007. He claims he suffers from respiratory problems, tightness in his chest, constant dry cough, increased allergic sensitivities and frequent headaches as a result of exposure.
McBreairty alleges that she was exposed to toxic emissions from burn pits while stationed at Balad, Iraq, according to the complaint.
The complaint states that smoke at the Balad base "filled the nearby living quarters with smoke and haze," and "reduced visibility to only a few yards."
McBreairty contends that as a result to exposure to the smoke, she suffers from chronic cough, respiratory symptoms, sore joints, rheumatoid arthritis, muscle spasms, chronic pain syndrome and multiple sclerosis.