28 July 2004
Kwajalein at risk -- environmental impact due to toxin perchlorate
By Aenet Rowa

Yokwe Online, while researching the subject of missile defense, has located a report which addresses the harmful impact of perchlorate releases over launch overflight areas which include the Central Pacific Island Broad Ocean Area near Kwajalein Missile Range.

The report, "Assessment of Perchlorate Releases in Launch Operation," issued October 2001, was initiated by the U.S. Air Force (AF) Space and Missile Systems Center and the Aerospace Corporation. The report states that endangered and/or essential fish habitats are located in each of the DoD launch sites mentioned in the report. These habitats can be impacted by percholorate releases from launch operations. The assessment notes that previous studies have found contamination in drinking supplies, and there is a cause for concern for all aspects of the environment.

Agencies investigating impact
In recent impact studies, concerns regarding deposition of solid rocket propellant and associated percholate releases were raised. Several US agencies such as the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Federal Aviation Authority and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration have requested documentation of solid propellant debris mitigation procedures for failed launches as well. Specific examples of launch practices that could result in impact to the environment include:

- Use of unburned propellant in non-ignition tests
- Termination of launches over sensitive habitats or species of concern
- Non-retrieval of debris from launch failures

Contaminate can cause thyroid problems
The US Environmental Protection Agency has declared perchlorate ion (ClO4) as a contaminant. The EPA states that it is relatively unreactive and thus can exist for decades under typical groundwater or surface water conditions. Human health concerns focus on thyroid uptake of perchlorate, which results in reduced thyroid hormone production and affect growth and development, particularly for children and pregnant women.

In months prior to the AF/SMC assessment, other reports citing the damage to health and environment were published. In July, 2001, the Environmental Working Group released "Rocket Science: Perchlorate and the Toxic Legacy of the Cold War," claiming that the toxin has tainted Water Supplies for Millions in California and Nationwide, potentially causing serious health problems.

Army & Air Force in clean-up operations in US
The EPA and State agencies have been urgently involved in health and ecological assessment for "potential risks resulting from exposure to perchloate through drinking water and other sources. Recommendatio will then be made if federal drinking water standard for this contaminant is needed. Many state agencies have already put emergency standards in place. Needless to say, Air Force, defense firms have lobbied against stricter standards for rocket fuel Waste in the past few years.

Most of the current studies have focused on the impact to ground water from local launch and military facilities. Lawsuits and clean-up operation by Army and Air Force have resulted. Newspaper articles as recent as June 1 and 3 of this year, report clean-up efforts at Massachusetts Military Reservation and Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, amounting to millions of dollars.

Report acknowledges impact to surrounding areas
What is unique to the AF/SMC/Aerospace assessment report is its emphasis on surrounding area contamination.

"The focus on impact For any launch vehicle containing solid propellant, there is a possibility that solid fuel will impact the region surrounding the launch site, the coastal waters, and downrange areas of the ocean"

40 Years of Testing and Launches
On November 15, 1961, the Army launched a Speedball rocket successfully from the island of Roi-Namur on Kwajalein atoll in the Southwest Pacific, the first target rocket to be used in Nike-Zeus development. On December 21, 1961, a Nike-Zeus was launched from Kwajalein Island in the South Pacific. The rest is rocket/missile history.

At this time, Yokwe Online does not have information if environmental impact studies for this toxin have been performed at Kwajalein or in the region.

Researched, compiled and edited by
Aenet Rowa


"Assessment of Perchlorate Releases in Launch Operations," (PDF File)

Rocket Science: Perchlorate and the Toxic Legacy of the Cold War,"


EPA: Perchlorate



Chemical detected in ground water in Aberdeen - June 3, 2002

Army embarks on base cleanup - June 1, 2002

Reagan Test Site,A World Class Range U.S.A.S.M.D.C.

Nasa: Aeronautical and Astronautical Events of October-December 1961

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