Perchlorate: It’s not just for rocket fuel anymore

 

Note: in the print edition of this issue, this article appears as a sidebar to another news article, "Cold War toxin seeps into Western water."

Ammonium perchlorate shows up in hundreds of military munitions, from signal smoke (orange, green, violet and beyond) to hand grenades and anti-tank rockets, and on military bases from California to Connecticut. According to an analysis of government data by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, perchlorate has contaminated soil and water in 43 states, and drinking water in 22 states.

Now, some watchdog groups say the Defense Department is trying to avoid responsibility for its perchlorate problem. They point to a provision within the Pentagon's "Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative" that would exempt the military - along with private contractors like Kerr-McGee, Boeing, General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin - from perchlorate cleanup and financial liability (HCN, 3/31/03: While the nation goes to war, the Pentagon lobs bombs at environmental laws).

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, cleanup of just one perchlorate-contaminated site in Sacramento County, Calif., will take 240 years; the first of its six phases will cost $111 million. "You multiply that by hundreds of sites, and the cleanup liability is enormous," says Bill Martin of the Environmental Working Group's Oakland office. "It's not surprising (the Defense Department) is trying to exempt themselves from cleanup."

But Western senators - whose states could be stuck with billions of dollars in cleanup costs - are fighting the Pentagon's proposal. In California, where the state has already found perchlorate in 292 groundwater wells, Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have joined forces with Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., to demand that the Defense Department take a more "aggressive and positive" role in cleaning up perchlorate at and around its bases.

The Pentagon released its new draft of the proposal in mid-March, and it will go to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on May 15.

High Country News Classifieds
  • BEND AREA HOME WITH AMAZING CASCADE PEAKS VIEW
    Enjoy rural peacefulness and privacy with one of the most magnificent Cascade Mountain views in sunny Central Oregon! Convenient location only eight miles from Bend's...
  • MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Marketing Communications Manager to join our...
  • EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks an Editor-In-Chief to join our senior team...
  • RESEARCH FELLOW (SOUTHWESTERN U.S. ENERGY TRANSITION)
    The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) in partnership with the Grand Canyon Trust is seeking a full-time Fellow to conduct topical research...
  • LENDER OWNED FIX & FLIP
    2 houses on 37+ acres. Gated subdivision, Penrose Colorado. $400k. Possible lender financing. Bob Kunkler Brokers Welcome.
  • ONCE OR TWICE
    A short historical novel set in central Oregon based on the the WWII Japanese high altitude ballon that exploded causing civilian casualties. A riveting look...
  • HISTORIC LODGE AND RESTAURANT - FULLY EQUIPPED
    Built in 1901, The Crazy Mountain Inn has 11 guest rooms in a town-center building on 7 city lots (.58 acres). The inn and restaurant...
  • HOUSE FOR SALE
    Rare mountain property, borders National Forest, stream nearby. Pumicecrete, solar net metering, radiant heat, fine cabinets, attic space to expand, patio, garden, wildlife, insulated garage,...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER- NORTHERN PLAINS RESOURCE COUNCIL
    Want to organize people to protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life with Northern Plains Resource Council? Apply now-...
  • CONSERVATION MANAGER
    The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) is hiring an energetic and motivated Conservation Manager to develop and complete new conservation projects and work within...
  • POLLINATOR OASIS
    Seeking an experienced, hardworking partner to help restore a desert watershed/wetland while also creating a pollinator oasis at the mouth of an upland canyon. Compensation:...
  • ELLIE SAYS IT'S SAFE! A GUIDE DOG'S JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE
    by Don Hagedorn. A story of how lives of the visually impaired are improved through the love and courage of guide dogs. Available on Amazon.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY
    All positions available: Sales Representative, Accountant and Administrative Assistant. As part of our expansion program, our University is looking for part time work from home...
  • RUBY, ARIZONA CARETAKER
    S. Az ghost town seeking full-time caretaker. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Powder River Basin Resource Council, a progressive non-profit conservation organization based in Sheridan, Wyoming, seeks an Executive Director, preferably with grassroots organizing experience, excellent communication...
  • ADOBE HOME
    Passive solar adobe home in high desert of central New Mexico. Located on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition, based in Ely, Nevada is looking for a new executive director to replace the long-time executive director who is retiring at...
  • STEVE HARRIS, EXPERIENCED PUBLIC LANDS/ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY
    Comment Letters - Admin Appeals - Federal & State Litigation - FOIA -
  • LOG HOME IN THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Beautiful hand built log home in the heart of the Gila Wilderness on five acres. Please email for PDF of pictures and a full description.