By R. Rabin, CPRDV *
The longest-running and most alarming pollutant on Vieques is the United States Navy. The fifty years that the Navy has been operating on Vieques can be classified as "half a century of environmental disaster."
The Puerto Rican environmentalist Neftalí García, in his work, Historical-natural consequences of the presence of the
United States Navy in Vieques, affirms that the military practices have produced serious destruction to the "mangroves, lagoons, beaches, coconut trees and other natural resources ... the Navy razed the coconut trees of Bahía Tapón, Bahía la Chiva, Punta Brigadier, Puerto Negro, Puerto Diablo and the destruction began in other areas such as Bahía Salinas del Sur. "
Professor José Seguinot Barbosa, Director of the Department of Geography of the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras, in his study entitled, Vieques, ecology of a harassed island (1989), maintains that "the eastern tip of the island (where the marine performs its bombing practices) constitutes a region with more craters per square kilometer than the Moon. " In the same work, the distinguished Puerto Rican geographer states that "the destruction of the natural and human resources of Vieques is carried out in violation of the basic norms of international law and human rights. At the federal and state levels, the laws of management of the coastal zone, water quality, noise, underwater resources, archaeological resources and land use, among others. "
The Vieques engineer, Rafael Cruz Pérez, in an article entitled, "Contamination produced by explosives and explosives residues in Vieques, Puerto Rico (Dimensión, Magazine of the College of Engineers and Surveyors of Puerto Rico, Year 2, vol. 8 January, 1988 ) describes three sources of contamination that result from the activities of the Navy in Vieques: 1) the chemical compounds in the projectile charges themselves and their reaction compounds; 2) the dust and rock particles that may be released to the atmosphere as a result of impact or explosion of the projectiles; 3) the metallic residues left by the projectiles when fragmenting, as well as the scrap used as a target in the firing area.
Engineer Cruz is an environmental consultant with vast
experience in the field. He was an artillery officer in the United States Army and worked in Vieques studying the effects on the environment of artillery practices conducted there. It presents the situation of Cerro Matías and its adjacent sectors (the Navy shooting area) as "a battlefield during the First World War, where the soil and a large part of the vegetation layer have been reduced to dust. (...) Fragments and portions of projectiles can be seen, as well as projectiles that did not explode (…) scrap metal that is used as a target (…) Cerro Matías can be considered with its fundamental characteristics as a gigantic deposit of solid waste. "
The Viequense engineer adds in his article that, "according to information provided by the United States Navy, this material is never removed, but is detonated or simply covered with earth ... Under the effects of subsequent explosions, the sea breezes, and natural weathering, metals are oxidized or decomposed, converting in an accelerated way into lexiviation products that go on to pollute the environment. "
"In this study it is found ... that the concentration of these pollutants (TNT, NO3, NO2, RDX and Tetryl) in the drinking water sources in the town of Isabel Segunda and La Esperanza are the same or similar to those found in the puddles and lagoons in the firing area at Cerro Matías. The study does not explain how these substances reached these water sources, located more than fourteen kilometers from the firing area. "
"It is clear from all of the above," says the author, "that components resulting from the explosions in the shooting area east of Vieques are transported by various mechanisms to the civil area in the center of the island (...) In the case of explosions of artillery pieces, rockets, or bombs, there are several factors that, directly or indirectly, increase the ease of movement of these pollutants ... The cloud of pollutants generated by an explosion is dispersed by the effect of prevailing winds in the area from the explosion (...) the fine particles become components of the atmosphere, and are airborne over great distances (...) we found that the effective concentration of particulates over the civil area of Vieques, would exceed 197 micrograms per cubic meter and therefore both the federal criteria of the clean air act. "
In May 1999, shortly after the death of the Viequense, David Sanes, as a consequence of bombing practices, the Navy admitted to having used uranium 238 bullets in Vieques. They also admitted to having launched Napalm during previous maneuvers. Scientific studies from the Department of Health and the Graduate School of Public Health of the University of Puerto Rico indicate that Vieques suffers a level of cancer cases 30% higher than the rest of Puerto Rico. High concentrations of nitrates and nitrites, heavy metals and other harmful chemicals products of military practices arrive airborne in the winds that blow exactly from the bombing zone towards the civil sector.
Scientific studies confirm what every Viequense knows from birth: that the presence and activities of the United States Navy in Vieques result in an environmental crisis with serious consequences for the health of our physical and human geography. One obvious solution will end this prominent source of contamination on Vieques: Get the Navy out!
We demand: Demilitarization, Decontamination, Devolution and Development
How does the Navy affect the health of Viequenses?
High incidence of cancer
High infant mortality
High incidence of lung diseases
High mortality from diabetes, heart disease, liver disease
Damage to the cardiovascular system, possible high incidence of vibroacoustic syndrome
Scientific Studies on Pollution and Diseases on Vieques
|1998||Dr. Nazario||27% higher incidence of cancer in Vieques compared to the Big Island|
|1999||Dr. Colon de Jorge||Contamination with heavy metals (mercury, lead, cadmium, aluminum, arsenic) in sick Viequenses|
|3/2000||Dr. Ortiz Roque||Mercury contamination in base workers and fishermen|
|5/2000||Dr. Zavala||Cancer mortality in Vieques 34% higher than in Puerto Rico|
|6/2000||Dr. Ortiz Roque||45% of Viequenses with toxic levels of mercury|
|2000||Dr. García Martínez||Heavy metal contamination in soil and sediment samples|
|2000||Mr. Fernández Porto||Heavy metal contamination in soil|
|2000||Dr. Massol||Heavy metal contamination in plants, crustaceans and soil. Notoriously: cadmium|
* Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques Box 1424, Vieques, Puerto Rico 00765 Tel: (787) 741-0716 Fax: (787) 741-0358
Email: [email protected]