A lawsuit filed on Tuesday alleges that the Department of Defense failed to account for hazardous waste at the Guantanamo Bay military prison, which has contributed to high cancer rates of personnel onsite.
The legal actions were brought by attorneys who work out of the facility’s Camp Justice – the hub for military commission proceedings. The suit notes that nine individuals who have worked at the camp have been diagnosed with cancer. Three have since died.
“For years, personnel have raised concerns regarding conditions and environmental contamination in and around the buildings and temporary structures at Camp Justice,” the lawyers said in their filing.
The Pentagon’s Inspector General was notified of the potential health hazards at the site in July 2015, following a tip from a former commission attorney.
The military responded to the complaint in September 2015 by conducting a “preliminary investigation” into the camp’s structures where staff work and sleep. The probe, which the lawsuit describes as “flawed,” turned up inconclusive results.
The site had previously been used as an airplane hangar, which included fuel and solvent storage – potential sources of contamination.
Although the initial review of Camp Justice was inconclusive, the living quarters were still deemed “habitable.” A subsequent October 2015 inspection, however, turned up asbestos-containing floor tiles, lead paint chips, and mold growth.
When an environmental assessment was finally conducted on the site, air samples tested positive for carcinogens, including formaldehyde and mercury. Despite those findings, the lawsuit states:“Defendants took no steps to protect military commissions personnel from the risks associated with the carcinogens found at Camp Justice.”
The lawsuit demands that the Pentagon relocate the military attorneys to safer housing, until a more thorough environmental test can be conducted on Camp Justice’s living conditions.
The U.S. Navy told CNN that it is completing another risk assessment of the site that should be finished in the “coming weeks.”
But counsel for the military lawyers said the department’s delays have already caused harm.
“We know that two years is too long because of the hazards people are being exposed to,” Daniel Small, a partner at the law firm representing the Gitmo attorneys, told CNN.
“They have unreasonably delayed the (review) completely,” he added.