The shipment is of 6,700 tons of sand from a 1991 fire at Camp Doha. It is unclear why Kuwait gets to ship it to the U.S. The sand does have lead as well depleted uranium. While the amount of DU is dismissed as unimportant by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a sample found the lead was 4 times higher than EPA's limit for hazardous materials.
The story is inconsistent. According to the AP story, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality Director Brian Monson stated "It was only until the last hour we realized we might be dealing with a hazardous material." Did he really think folks were transporting sand just for fun?
EPA officials apparently were not concerned and the AP story quotes Cheryl Williams, an EPA specialist in Seattle as saying, "whether it's hazardous or not doesn't matter."
Chad Hyslop, the spokesman for the American Ecology Corporation, said the amount of uranium is less than what is found in nature and assured people that his company has received tens of thousands of tons of material with much higher radioactive levels, according to an Associated Press. No doubt the people of Idaho are comforted.
The longshoreman unloaded the ship and wore standard safety gear but no one opted to wear respirators, according to Hyslop as reported by Erik Olson, The Daily News reporter. (wwww.tdn.com)
This story raises unsettling questions. One is whether the people of Longview were informed that hazardous material was going through their community. Don't the people have a right to know what risk they are being exposed to by public officials as well as private corporations? Was a process in place for them to voice their concerns? Will there be more shipments?
This story also raises questions about the honesty of both the military, the shipping company and the American Ecology Corporation in reporting the risk posed by these hazardous materials. Did they inform the Port officials as well as other environment agencies about the extent of the hazard?
Lastly, who is liable for the health damages that are likely to emerge from handling hazardous material without the proper equipment? The American Ecology Corp or the taxpayers? Or will the dockworkers be on their own, like so many of the first responders of 9/11, to pay for their own health care?