WASHINGTON – Halliburton Co. failed to protect the water supply it is paid to purify for U.S. soldiers throughout Iraq, in one instance missing contamination that could have caused "mass sickness or death," an internal company report concluded.
The report, obtained by The Associated Press, said the company failed to assemble and use its own water purification equipment, allowing contaminated water directly from the Euphrates River to be used for washing and laundry at Camp Ar Ramadi in Ramadi, Iraq.
The problems discovered last year at that site — poor training, miscommunication and lax record keeping — occurred at Halliburton's other operations throughout Iraq, the report said.
"Countrywide, all camps suffer to some extent from all or some of the deficiencies noted," Wil Granger, Theatre Water Quality Manager in the war zone for Halliburton's KBR subsidiary, wrote in his May 2005 report.
AP reported earlier this year allegations from whistleblowers about the Camp Ar Ramadi incident, but Halliburton never made public Granger's internal report alleging wider problems.
The water quality expert warned Halliburton the problems "will have to be dealt with at a very elevated level of management" to protect health and safety of U.S. personnel.
Halliburton said Wednesday it conducted a second review last year that found no evidence of any illnesses in Iraq from water and it believes some of its earlier conclusions were incomplete and inaccurate. The company declined to release the second report.
The company said it has "worked closely with the Army to develop standards and take action to ensure that the water provided in Iraq is safe and of the highest quality possible."
Halliburton was headed by Vice President Dick Cheney for several years before he ran for vice president. Its KBR subsidiary, also known as Kellogg Brown & Root, works under contract to provide a number of services to the U.S. military in Iraq, including providing water and purifying it.
The contaminated, non-chlorinated water at Ar Ramadi was discovered in March 2005 in a commode by Ben Carter, a KBR water expert at the base. In an interview, Carter said he resigned after KBR barred him from notifying the military and senior company officials about the untreated water.
A supervisor at Ar Ramadi "told me to stop e-mailing" company officials outside the base and warned that informing the military "was none of my concern," Carter said. He said he threatened to sue if company officials didn't let him be examined to determine whether he suffered medical problems from exposure to the contaminated water.
Granger's report cited several countrywide problems:
— A lack of training for key personnel. "Theatre wide there is no formalized training for anyone at any level in concerns to water operations."
— Confusion between KBR and military officials over their respective roles. For instance, each assumed the other would chlorinate the water at Ar Ramadi for any uses that would require the treatment.
— Inadequate or nonexistent records that could have caught problems in advance. Little or no documentation was kept on water inventories, safety stand-downs, audits of water quality, deliveries, inspections and logs showing alterations or modifications to water systems.
— Relying on employees the company identified as semiskilled labor, and paid as unskilled workers in the pay structure.
The report said the event at Ar Ramadi could have been prevented if KBR's Reverse Osmosis Units on the site had been assembled, instead of relying on the military's water production facilities.
"This event should be considered a 'near miss' as the consequences of these actions could have been very severe resulting in mass sickness or death," Granger wrote.
The report said that KBR officials at Ar Ramadi tried to keep the contamination from senior company officials.
"The event that was submitted in a report to local camp management should have been classified as a recordable occurrence and communicated to senior management in a timely manner," Granger wrote. "The primary awareness to this event came through threat of domestic litigation."
Beginning last May, Halliburton said it began using its equipment to remove contaminants, bacteria, and viruses in Ar Ramadi, and disinfect the water with chlorine. The company said KBR has worked closely with the Army to develop safe water standards.
It said its subsequent review in August-September 2005 found nonpotable water used for washing "was effectively filtered" to remove at least 99 percent of the parasite giardia and 90 percent of viruses. The Ar Ramadi water also tested negative for bacteria, Halliburton added.