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The U.S. Navy and Me: Polluting The Pacific Ocean

Updated on November 6, 2015

Introduction

U.S. citizens can be fined up to as much as $1000.00 if convicted of littering; along with an added surcharge of 50% in some jurisdictions.However,the U.S. government continues to pollute the worlds oceans with impunity.

Source

Things I Didn't Read In A Book

In the late 70's I was stationed aboard a U.S. Navy vessel: the USS Proteus AS-19. It was a "Submarine Tender"; a large ship that had a crew of around 1100 men and several female officers.The ship was essentially a floating machine shop; a warehouse on water. Our job was to service submarines in need of repair, and to replenish their supplies. To the submarine sailor, we were also the equivalent of Walmart and Home Depot. I worked as a computer operator and data processing tech.

When we were out at sea, everyday in the late afternoon we would gather up all of the trash in our shop. The trash was collected in large black plastic garbage bags, and then taken to the fantail ( the back end of the ship). We would then unceremoniously throw the bags overboard into the Pacific Ocean. All of the other departments did the same: paper, oil cans, plastic bottles, garbage from the mess hall, chemicals, various scrap from the machine shop, etc. All was cast into the beautiful big blue ocean. It was probably during that time that I began to become disillusioned with the USA; not to mention thoroughly disgusted. I was being forced to participate in the destruction of the Earth!

I remember one day a boatswains mate had a boom box near the fantail. It was playing one of my favorite Lou Reed songs:" Walk On The Wild Side". It was a surreal moment that I will never forget. As I stood there listening to the music, my eyes followed a trail of black trash bags as they floated in the wake of the ship; a long black plastic ribbon that stretched as far as the eye could see! Out of 1100 men on our ship, and for the remainder of my active duty, I only recall one sailor who protested , and it wasn't me. I was like the rest of the cowards: afraid to stand up against evil. My love of money and material things, and my desire for advancement, outweighed my sense of morality. The sailor who refused was thrown into the brig (ships jail) for disobeying a direct order. There is no doubt that he was also fined, since that was the standard procedure.

What I have just described occurred everyday, on every US Navy ship in the fleet; 8 days a week. It was happening before I joined, and 6 years later it continued after I was honorably discharged. It still continues; millions of tons of garbage being dumped every year into the oceans, and the waterways throughout the world. Yet, a country that is undoubtedly one of the biggest environmental polluters on planet Earth, has the audacity to post warning signs along streets and highways that say : NO LITTERING. Welcome my friends to the dog and pony show!

Here is the link to a petition addressed to the Department of Defense requesting and end to the U.S. Navys dumping of garbage into the worlds oceans: change.org petition

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The Sinkex Program

As if what I just described isn't enough to get your blood boiling, the US Navy has a program in which decommissioned battleships are sunk by using them in live-fire exercises far out to sea. According to a report by the Associated Press, environmentalists have claimed that such exercises introduce harmful pollutants into the marine ecosystem. Of course, you don't have to be an expert to figure that one out! The program is called "Sinkex", short for "sinking exercise". The AP further reports that the Navy has performed these operations for decades; disposing of decommissioned ships with little public record of the toxins left onboard.

But here's the good part that will leave you scratching your head. In 1999, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered the Navy to better document toxic waste on ships earmarked for the Sinkex program. In return, the EPA exempted the military from federal pollution laws that prohibited such dumping in the ocean! I can't think of a better example of the fox guarding the chicken coop. Contaminated fish, in the vicinity of a Sinkex site exhibiting spikes in PCB levels, recently prompted Florida officials to ban further dumping along their coast, which has lead to a federal lawsuit alleging the EPA has failed to properly safeguard federal waters. PCBs or polychlorinated biphenyls, is a chemical banned in the U.S. since 1979. This dangerous chemical has long-lasting affects and it accumulates throughout the food chain.

According to Peter deFur, a professor of environmental studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, sending PCBs and other chemicals to the ocean floor instead of recycling the ships, runs counter to federal marine conservation efforts. deFur is also a member of the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council, which oversees fisheries from New York to North Carolina.

Radioactive Waste

Here is a brief list of incidents involving the U.S. Navy's dumping of radioactive waste into the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean since the end of World War II.

• Bikini Atoll is an atoll in the Marshal Islands. these islands are located in the northern Pacific Ocean. Between 1946 and 1958, the US detonated 23 atmospheric nuclear bomb tests at Bikini Atoll. This testing also included the detonation of the first hydrogen bomb, an unexpectedly powerful explosion which contaminated a swath of ocean 100 miles / 160 kilometers away from the epicenter. The fallout affected inhabited islands, fishing boats and fishers at sea, and, obviously, a lot of marine life.

• Between 1946 and 1970, the US dumped 107,000 drums of radioactive wastes at two sites, including some 47,800 in the ocean west of San Francisco, supposedly at three designated sites. However, drums actually litter an area of at least 1,400 square kilometers / 540 square miles. This is known as the Farallon Island Radioactive Waste Dump, which now falls almost entirely within the boundaries of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. The exact location of most of the drums is currently unknown. Because of growing concern about the Farallon site, the California legislature passed the 1983 law calling for fish sampling in the area, where commercial fishing occurs. A spokesperson for the California Department of Public Health recently said the law only required reports as funds were available; and they haven't been since 1991. For 22 years, untold numbers of citizens have most likely eaten fish harvested in this particular area,. However, the state government hasn't been "able" to provide funding for more tests in over 2 decades. In spite of this, on Dec.2 2013, California lawmakers received a 5.3% raise!

• According to U.S. Navy documents and interviews conducted by the Tampa Bay Times of more than 50 former crewmen, the USS Calhoun County is reported to have dumped thousands of tons of radioactive waste into the Atlantic Ocean. This is alleged to have occurred over a 15 year period beginning at the end of World War II and ending in 1960. In order to make the radioactive drums sink, it would sometimes be necessary for the sailors to shoot them with rifles. Many former crew members are reported to have suffered and died from cancers and other ailments directly related to radiation poisoning. Other crew members have reported extreme birth defects in their children; defects that are consistent with others who have been exposed to high levels of radiation. Crewmen who were interviewed stated that protective clothing was never provided to them by their superiors.

Conclusion

The polluting of the worlds oceans by the U.S. Navy, at the direction of the U.S. government, should be of great concern to all American citizens. The callousness, indifference, and insatiable greed that was the driving force behind colonialist expansionism in the New World, is the same force that is now in the process of destroying the worlds oceans.

What is important to understand is that we cannot bargain with evil, and we must now make a choice. We must decide whether to choose life over death. But time is running away from us. Soon we will not have to worry about future generations.Without the oceans and the forests, the clean air and the clear running water, there will be no future for anyone. The future of the Indigenous First Nations was derailed by foreign invaders. But the hand that steals the future of America may not be the hand of a stranger; an alien force that fell out of the sky, or a foreign invader from across the sea. It may very well be our own!

An Anthology of Metaphysical Conversation and Poetry
An Anthology of Metaphysical Conversation and Poetry | Source

© 2014 Ronnie wrenchBiscuit

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    • Tom Lohr profile image

      Tom Lohr 

      10 months ago from Santa Fe, NM

      That sink-ex picture breaks my hears. It's an Adams class DDG. I served on two of them, DDG-24 and DDG-13.

    • profile image

      FormerCVN70 

      2 years ago

      I can say this article is partially true. My time onboard the USS Carl Vinson is my say so. We were not allowed to dump trash overboard. Trash had to be brought to the trash room, bagged separately by types of trash. Metal, wood, and food waste was dumped overboard. Plastics were put in a large trash compactor made into "pucks," and disposed of inport. Hazardous material was collected in the Hazmat section and disposed of inport. Please don't assume the Navy has not changed its ways. It has. My time onboard was 2007-2012.

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