Vieques Referendum

CORALations corals at CARIBE.NET
Sat Feb 12 08:41:57 EST 2000

Please sign on this urgent letter copied below from the Military Toxics
Project to President Clinton.

Regarding Vieques Coral Reefs, in a Dec. 6, 1999 letter to Government of
Puerto Rico attorneys, James Porter form the University of Georgia wrote the
following regarding barges full of barrels he found in the coral reef area
being targeted:
....." if, 'inert' bombs or projectile shells are used anywhere in the area,
even these so called 'green' munitions could become highly dangerous if they
were to destroy the fragile integrity of either barrels or gas
M.A. Lucking
Please email your name, organization affiliation and state or country to
mtptara at
Tara Thornton
Military Toxics Project
Toll free: 1-877-783-5091
February 18, 2000

President William Jefferson Clinton
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

We, the undersigned, are writing to express our dismay with the January
31, 2000 Directive to the Secretary of Defense and the Director, Office and
Management and Budget regarding use of the range facilities on Vieques,
Puerto Rico.  As we approach the sixth anniversary of your signing of the
Executive Order on Environmental Justice (12898), we urge you to
reconsider this directive.

We believe that, the people of Vieques have spoken loudly and clearly,
"Not one more bomb, not one more minute".  They want the Navy to stop
military training exercises, clean up the contamination which litters the
and the surrounding surface water, and which may be buried in the soils of
island or may be polluting its groundwater, and return the land to the
people of Vieques.  In fact, the Vieques Special Commission appointed by
Governor Rossello and which was broadly representative of Puerto Rican
society, unanimously recommended that the Navy cease and desist all
activity on Vieques.

The directive sets in place a referendum process, which does not permit
the one option which all sectors of Vieques and Puerto Rico have urged: the
immediate suspension of all military training on Vieques and the clean up
of lands contaminated by military activities.  At best, the directive
would permit another three years of bombing with inadequate provisions for
clean up.  The Navy would resume training and continue at least until May

The directive calls for cleanup of the eastern side of Vieques consistent
with the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability
Act (CERCLA) except for the Live Impact Area, which will be swept for
ordnance and fenced off.  Under CERCLA, there is a careful process, which
includes public participation, environmental studies, remedial
investigations etc. to determine the best possible clean up option.  The
final remedy is then chosen in a Record of Decision (ROD).  Any
remediation of the impact area as well as the rest of the facility is
subject to
regulation by environmental regulatory authorities under existing
environmental statutes. This directive supersedes the congressionally
mandated process and therefore, we question its legality.

The impact area is written off with no attempt whatsoever to evaluate the
prospect of clearing it of unexploded ordnance and with no discussion of
the reliability of using fences alone as the sole long-term means of
keeping people from being injured or killed by the ordnance. The directive
invokes the "Weymouth" standard for removal of ordnance and other
contaminants, in an apparent reference to the naval Air Station at South
Weymouth, Massachusetts. This facility included an island known as "No
Man's Land" which is uninhabited, and which even fishermen do not approach
as a result of ordnance contamination.  Moreover, the final level of clean
up has not yet been determined and is a matter of conflict between the
Navy and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This standard is unacceptable
for Vieques, which relies heavily on fishing and tourism for its economic
being.  We recommend the standard adopted for the impact area at Camp
Edwards on Cape Cod Massachusetts as being appropriate.

The directive states,  'In the event the people of Vieques decide to allow
the military to continue training, OMB will request Congressional funding
for enhancement of infrastructure and housing on the Western portions of
Vieques in the amount of 50 million dollars'.  Such funds, which face un
certainty at best in the Congress, are inadequate to address the
environmental and health impacts of the Navy's activities on Vieques, and
would not address the fundamental ways in which military training on
Vieques has prevented economic development for the benefit of the island's

While the Agency of Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has
already initiated a health assessment, we have little confidence it will
address the health problems of Vieques residents resulting from military
activities.  For small populations, such as that of Vieques, the kinds of
epidemiological studies that ATSDR typically uses are inappropriate and
inconclusive. Often, ATSDR studies have been used inappropriately as a
tool to allay community concerns without disclosing the limitations of the
studies. Instead of protecting the public, ATSDR studies have been used as
public reassurances.  We recommend that the Department of Defense bear the
cost of a health study of Vieques residents undertaken by independent
experts selected by residents of the local community.

Your directive calls for the implementation of management plans from a
memorandum of understanding that is 17 years old. Given the Navy's record
of deception and noncompliance with Commonwealth and federal laws in
Vieques, why should the citizens of Vieques trust this directive?  There
are no mechanisms in place to enforce it, and the Navy's record in Vieques
has destroyed public faith in its promises regarding the range.

Finally, it is unrealistic to expect that land on the western side of the
island could be transferred by December 31, 2000.  This allows just 9
months for clean up and restoration consistent with CERCLA standards.

We request that Attorney General Janet Reno rule on the legality of all
parts of this directive, particularly the question of superseding CERCLA
legislation by Presidential directive.

We urge Ms. Reno not to use the resources of the Justice Department to f
orcibly remove the peaceful demonstrators from the impact area on Vieques.
We believe that this is not legitimate use of power of our government and
that it entails the possibility of extreme harm to both demonstrators and
law enforcement officers.

We urge you, Mr. President to reverse this directive, give back the island
to the citizens of Vieques and ensure an environmental clean up that
guarantees public participation and is protective of human health, culture
and the environment.


Tara Thornton
Military Toxic Project

John Lindsey-Polland
Fellowship of Reconciliation

Joel Feigenbaum
Upper Cape Concerned Citizens

Pat Tummons
Environment Hawaii

Richard Hugus
Otis Conversion Project

Walter Stochel, Jr.
 New Jersey

Paul Zanis
Alliance for Base Cleanup

Susan Ravitz
The LEPOCO Peace Center

Mary Ann Lucking
Puerto Rico

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