A U.S military health unit is planning to take air, soil, water and paint samples to test for ionizing radiation at Guantánamo’s war court compound, Camp Justice, following a cancer scare, the base announced Friday.
The announcement comes as the Pentagon is preparing for two weeks of 9/11 pretrial hearings at the court compound later this month. A preliminary survey concluded that the site was “habitable for occupancy.”
The statement, released by the Navy base, said the sampling would be carried out by a joint Navy-Marines public health team “to fill gaps in data identified in an earlier Public Health Review Report” on the Pentagon’s $12 million military commissions compound built in 2007 and 2008 atop an obsolete airstrip.
The testing should start next week and continue into 2016, the statement said.
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The investigation was kicked off earlier this year by a complaint to the Pentagon inspectors general’s office by a reserve naval officer who once worked as a defense attorney at the compound. At the time, another military lawyer who had war court assignments was dying of cancer. The complaint cited seven cases of Camp Justice workers who allegedly had cancer.
A preliminary investigation looked at those seven cases and concluded there was no evidence of a so-called cluster of cancer cases.
“This sampling is the latest step in addressing concerns brought to Navy leadership’s attention alleging that since 2004 military and civilian employees working for the DOD Military Commissions on Camp Justice at NS Guantánamo Bay have been exposed to carcinogens in an area surrounding the Commissions’ trailers, tents, offices and courtrooms,” the statement said.
A base spokeswoman earlier told the Miami Herald that while there were carcinogens in at least one of the buildings on the airstrip, there was no evidence that any carcinogens were in material that was exposed to the air or environment.
Buildings to be sampled house a judge’s chambers, offices of defense attorneys and the chief war crimes prosecutor as well as a linguists’ suite and security and administrative headquarters.