By Debbie Gregory.
Like many U.S. military bases, Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana generates large volumes of toxic waste. That includes thousands of pounds of toxic powder left over from cleaning, painting and maintaining airplanes.
Barksdale had found a contractor, Ohio-based U.S. Technology Corp, that was willing to take the powder and then recycle it into cinder blocks to be used in construction. U.S. Technology had won some 830 contracts with other military facilities — Army, Air Force, Navy and logistics bases, totaling more than $49 million, many of them to dispose of similar powders.
It sounded great in theory. But it turns out that rather than recycling the waste, U.S. Technology Corp was stashing it in warehouses across the country, in violation of numerous federal regulations, not to mention the potential health and environmental risks.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency got involved last year, and the investigation revealed systemic failures in military oversight and corruption among contractors hired to eliminate dangerous waste.
“How Military Outsourcing Turned Toxic,” a report by Abrahm Lustgarten for ProPublica, focused on contractor abuse in Pentagon hazardous-materials disposal.
One of the biggest issues was that the Pentagon didn’t have enough staff or resources to oversee cleanup operations.
“Some of the most dangerous cleanup work that has been entrusted to contractors remains unfinished, or worse, has been falsely pronounced complete, leaving people who live near former military sites to assume these areas are now safe,” according to ProPublica.
Raymond F. Williams, president and owner of U.S. Technology Corporation, was no stranger to legal problems. He and his company were investigated in Macon, GA for dumping hazardous waste nearly identical to what Barksdale had produced onto the grounds of the Middle Georgia Raceway. Williams was also indicted in Georgia for paying a Department of Defense official $20,000 a year to make sure that Air Force contracts required U.S. Technology’s services, and no other company could compete.
In April 2015, U.S. Technology Corp. fired all of its employees. The next day, the new owner who had purchased the patented products and the recycling process from Williams, hired everyone back and renamed the company U.S. Technology Media, and is located in one of Williams’ old recycling buildings.