At 12 years after the Navy left Vieques, the contamination continues/ A 12 años de la salida de la Marina, continúa la contaminación.

explosion-en-culebra_jpg_thumbnail0On May 1, 2015 Vieques will be celebrating 12 years since the Navy left the island. The cleanup process continues but much needs to be done, including a stop to open air detonations. On April 30, 2015, while the Puerto Rico archipelago was covered on a thick cloud of Sahara Desert dust that elevated the air quality index to a very seldom seen level of 117, unhealthy to sensitive groups, and the wind was strongly blowing from the south south-east at 18 mph and gusting to 22 mph,  a bomb, or several bombs, were open air detonated and seen/felt in Culebra.

Reported in Primera Hora

No notification of the detonation was issued. The Culebra non-profit group Coralations requested information about the event and EPA replied that the detonation was a scheduled open air detonation. This is a letter from Coralations requesting witnesses and pictures if available to fight open air detonation or at least to get prior notifications of the event:

“A large explosion was heard/felt on Culebra at 10:45am. I wrote Vieques EPA and confirmed that it was part of a scheduled detonation for clean up of UXO.  (emails below)

I am requesting prior notice on these detonations.  Because these contractors are still detonating in open air instead of a chamber, Culebra is subject to both concussion  and air contamination.  In the past people pouring concrete on Culebra would end up with cracks from the concussion from practice exercises on Vieques. We deserve at least a heads up.
I am interested in any testimonials, or photos from south facing houses that may have heard and felt the blast this morning, and hopefully grabbed a camera to capture the cloud.
In 2009, the head of clean up operations on Vieques, told the NYTs that the bombs are too large to detonate in a chamber.  The same article listed the following hazardous substances EPA says may be associated with Vieques ordnance:  “TNT, napalm, depleted uranium, mercury, lead and other chemicals, including PCBs.”
In the same article, Jose C. Font, E.P.A. deputy director in San Juan, says open air detonations pose no threat to human health as long as limited amounts are exploded each time, the wind is calm and air quality is monitored constantly.
Weather Underground has the winds blowing 18, from the SSE, with gusts to 22. 
2009 NYT article:
Meanwhile in Vieques, local resident Kathy Gannett is addressing the Presidential Task Force on Vieques, and although Vieques Blog does not believe in the “Devolution” part of the statement below, here is the whole letter.
Hello to the White House Task Force on P.R. from Vieques:
Below please read my detailed comments on the Vieques cleanup.  I am also attaching a letter I sent to the US Navy. Embedded within that letter you will find the Navy’s response.  The Navy claims they are finishing up the cleanup and it appears they have no intention to leave our lands clean.  I would like to know what actions the White House is taking on this matter.  Here is a photo of me reminding you what President Obama promised Vieques in 2008.
Some Thoughts on the Cleanup

By Kathy Gannett, resident of Vieques.  April 23, 2015

“If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”  Adolph Hitler

  1. THE CLEANUP IS NOT DONE! – We reject the Navy’s lies and propaganda that the “most of the munitions have been removed” and that, if Viequenses don’t pick up “funny-looking things, you are 99.9% of the way to being safe”.  This disregard for the safety of the population is insulting and represents a clear case of environmental racism. (Statements made by Vieques Restoration Branch Head Dan Waddill in RAB meeting on February 25, 2015.) 


  1. THE CLEANUP MUST BE A COMPLETE CLEANUP. The federal law that requires decontamination of the land based only on its current use as a refuge must be changed. We demand a thorough cleanup. This problem is clearly reflected in Dan Waddill’s recent comment, “And so the goal is that we make the area safe for people to use as FWS plans for that use.”   The goal should be making the area safe for Viequenses to return to their land.
  1. SIGNS ARE NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR DECONTAMINATION.  Signs warning against explosive dangers have been placed on the road to Faro Puerto Ferro, Playa La Chiva and they will be used in Puntas Arenas when the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) soon opens a new recreation area. Waddill states, “Munitions are cleared to a depth of 4 feet on beaches and a depth of 2 feet on roads. Also, in areas that will be used for parking, construction projects, trails, or other activities, munitions are cleared to a depth that will support the land use. ” Once again it is clear that the Navy is cleaning only a small portion of the lands and only to a minimum standard – mostly for FWS purposes.
  1. THE CLEANUP MUST BE ADEQUATELY FUNDED. Waddill says, “The money is not going to run out.” Yet in a recent letter he admits, “Since 2005, the Navy has spent an average of approximately $20 million per year on the cleanup of Vieques. Due to the federal budget situation during the past few years, Vieques cleanup funding has been somewhat less than $20 million per year.”
  1. THE DETONATION MUST STOP. It places our people and our environment in danger.  Waddill states, “The records show that over 90,000 munitions items have been identified and removed from the former Navy areas on Vieques. More than 40,000 munitions items have been destroyed through demolition. We know these numbers represent most of the munitions on the land portions of Vieques because the clearance work has already been carried out on the most heavily impacted areas.” We reject that most of the munitions have been removed. Blowing up munitions is not decontamination – it is poisoning our people. Appropriate technology must be used for a safe cleanup.  (Waddill makes the dubious claim, “When munitions explode, the explosive chemicals are converted to gases that normally exist in the atmosphere.”)
  1. THE COMMUNITY MUST PARTICIPATE IN THE CLEANUP. The Restoration Advisory Board, although it has a few dedicated members, does not represent the Vieques community.
  1. THE COMMUNITY MUST HAVE ACCESS TO INFORMATION. The Navy has failed to provide information in a timely manner to the community either through its totally deficient web site  or through other methods of communication. The Navy has failed to respond to a Congressional request made in March, 2014, for information withheld for decades on the types and amounts of ordinance used in Vieques.
  1. DEVOLUTION (RETURN OF THE LANDS) –  All of the land currently controlled by the federal government must be returned in the condition in which it was found.  It is a crime against humanity that half of the island continues to be off limits to the its people.

The letter sent to the Navy and their response is here Letter Navy Response to K Gannett_2015_03_12

An archive of Navy and community documents can be found on this web site:


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