PORTLAND, Ore., Oct. 9 (UPI) -- Lawyers say they will be watching the outcome of a civil case brought by members of an Oregon National Guard unit against defense contractor KBR.
Jury selection was scheduled to begin Tuesday in the case of Bixby et al vs. KBR. The plaintiffs are 12 members of the Oregon National Guard who were deployed to Iraq in 2003 shortly after the U.S.-led invasion. The unit's charge included providing security at a water treatment plant damaged in the fighting, The (Portland) Oregonian reported.
KBR had been contracted by the Pentagon to repair infrastructure in Iraq. While working at the plant, KBR exposed the soldiers to sodium dichromate, a chemical containing carcinogenic compounds, the suit contends. Two soldiers have died of cancer and scores more report ongoing health problems as a result of being exposed to the chemical, the newspaper said.
Photos published in the newspaper taken by the soldiers show large piles of loose paper bags containing the chemical in an open-air storage facility. Soldiers say the chemical regularly blew in the wind and leached into the soil.
KBR said it took steps to curtail the chemical being released and did not knowingly expose soldiers to it.
Twelve members of the unit are plaintiffs in the case, a number trimmed down from 100 previous plaintiffs. A judge has said other soldiers will have the chance to pursue their lawsuits after the initial case is heard.