U.S. Troops Exposed to Afghan Burn Pits After $5.4 Million Incinerators Fail

One of the open-air burn pits used by troops at FOB Sharana

SIGAR

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One of the open-air burn pits used by troops at FOB Sharana

A new watchdog report says that troops at a forward operating base in Afghanistan were put at risk because solid waste burned in open-air. By Charles Clark

As U.S. diplomats wrangle with the Afghan government over terms of troop departures, auditors have reported $5.4 million spent on incinerators that have never been used.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers signed a contract for the incinerators in September 2009 with International Home Finance and Development LLC., and accepted delivery in fall 2012 despite delays and without testing the equipment, which contained electrical problems, according to the report released Monday by the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction.

(Related: SIGAR found that coalition forces lost $230 million in spare parts)

“Even if the incinerators had been made operational, the poor physical layout of the facility, as constructed, would have limited the facility to only 80 percent of the processing capacity called for under the contract and would have required extensive manual labor to load waste and remove ash residue,” SIGAR John Sopko wrote in a letter to the U.S. Central Command.

Because of the incinerators’ poor quality, personnel on Forward Operating Base Sharana in Paktika Province were put at risk by open-air burning of solid waste, the audit said. It recommended that the Corps of Engineers conduct an inquiry and consider disciplining contracting officers.

The contractor set to operate the incinerators, Fluor, estimated that it would cost $1 million to render the equipment functional.

The Corps agreed with the recommendations and said it had already acted on them. But SIGAR requested more-detailed documentation.

This is SIGAR’s third report on incinerators in Afghanistan.

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