By John Lee.
A federal magistrate in Oregon has ordered Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) to pay $85 million to a dozen National Guard soldiers for illnesses suffered while guarding an oilfield water plant during the Iraq war.
The soldiers said they suffer from respiratory ailments after exposure to sodium dichromate, and they fear that the hexavalent chromium that it contains could cause cancer.
The chemical was added to water that was pumped underground to push oil to the surface at the site managed by KBR. The soldiers claimed the substance was loose in the compound and contaminated areas outside the building where it was added to the water.
One soldier testified the chemical even coated his food.
Another 21 soldiers included as plaintiffs in the original filing are waiting their turn in court as the case was initially too large to handle at one time.
Each of the 12 soldiers was awarded $850,000 in non-economic damages and $6.25 million in punitive damages. KBR says it will appeal the verdict.
During the Iraq war, KBR was the engineering and construction arm of Halliburton, the biggest U.S. contractor during the conflict. KBR split from Halliburton in April 2007.
(Sources: UPI, Associated Press)
(Picture: Sodium Dichromate)