In Depth: The Navy And Vieques

In Depth: The Navy And Vieques
April 25th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: In Depth: The Navy And Vieques

In Depth: The Navy And Vieques
April 24, 2008 NBC Nightly News, 7:00 PM
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Weíre back with NBC News In Depth tonight. An ugly dispute in a beautiful spot: the island of Vieques in Puerto Rico. For a long time, the U.S. Navy operated a bombing range there. Then five years ago the Navy pulled out, but they left behind some serious questions about what effect all that military activity had on the people who lived there and who should pay the bill for it.
Here is NBCís Mark Potter.
MARK POTTER: For tourists enjoying the beautiful beaches, the island of Vieques is a tropical paradise. But for many of the residents here, there are fears of contamination and long-term health risks.
ROBERT RABIN [Vieques Historian]: (From tape.) We believe itís time that the U.S. government, the Congress, the president, the Defense Department, you know, pay up.
POTTER: For more than 60 years, the U.S. Navy maintained a huge firing range on Vieques, with bombs, missiles, and shells raining down on the eastern half of the island. Living downwind of all the smoke, more than 9,000 people whom the Puerto Rico health department claims have a 52 percent excess risk of dying from cancer than residents in mainland Puerto Rico, just eight miles away.
Two of Nanette Rosaís daughters were treated for cancer.
NANETTE ROSA [Vieques Resident]:Itís been terrible because I donít know if tomorrow Iím going to see them awake.
POTTER: After asking the Navy to pay for their medical care and being denied, more than 7,000 Vieques residents last year filed suit against the U.S. government. According to the lawsuit, Vieques residents were repeatedly exposed to bomb-related toxins, including arsenic, lead, and mercury. But the Navy claims a government study of the environment found no health risks.
KELLEY STIRLING [U.S. Navy Spokesperson]:Some small trace metals were found, but nothing that would indicate harmful health effects to the people of Vieques.
POTTER: Dr. Cruz Maria Nazario, an epidemiologist at the University of Puerto Rico, argues the U.S. government research was incomplete.
DR. CRUZ MARIA NAZARIO [University of Puerto Rico Epidemiologist]: They never studied the population. So thereís no way they can say that thereís no link between the cancer risk and the exposure to the bombing.
POTTER: Meanwhile, contractors are detonating and removing thousands of tons of bombs and debris from the firing range, which has now been turned into a wildlife refuge, as arguments rage over who is responsible for the people here.
Mark Potter, NBC News, the Vieques, Puerto Rico.

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