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US to do more environmental testing at Guantanamo court compound

By CAROL ROSENBERG | Miami Herald (Tribune News Service) | Published: October 10, 2015

A U.S military health unit is planning to take air, soil, water and paint samples to test for ionizing radiation at Guantanamo’s war court compound, Camp Justice, after a cancer scare.

The announcement Friday came as the Pentagon is preparing for two weeks of pretrial hearings this month in cases related to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. A preliminary survey concluded that the site was “habitable for occupancy.”

A statement issued by the military said the sampling would be carried out by a joint Navy-Marine 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 next year, the statement said.

The investigation began this year after a complaint to the Pentagon inspectors general’s office by a reserve naval officer who once worked as a defense lawyer at the compound. At the time, another military lawyer who had war court assignments was dying of cancer. The complaint said seven Camp Justice workers had cancer.

A preliminary investigation looked at those seven cases and concluded there was no evidence of a cluster of cancer cases.

A base spokeswoman said earlier that while there were carcinogens in at least one of the buildings on the airstrip, there was no evidence that any 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.

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©2015 Miami Herald

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Detainees' laundry hangs to dry on a fence at Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in October 2010.
U.S. NAVY

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