BAGHDAD, June 14 (UPI) -- Hazardous materials at U.S. bases in Iraq are being dumped locally rather than being returned to America for disposal as required, observers say.
Private American recycling companies are allegedly mixing hazardous material with ordinary scrap and selling it to local Iraqi scrap dealers, The Times of London reported Monday.
A Pentagon report describes "an estimated 11 million pounds of hazardous waste" including engine oil, acid containers and discarded batteries generated by American troops in the country, The Times said.
Some Iraqis say they've suffered from rashes and blistering from contact with the materials.
"By the time we see this stuff it is too late," said scrap dealer Abu Saif, who claims several workers at his and other scrap yards have been injured handling scrap material.
"When they poured out what's in these jerrycans they started coughing," another yard owner said. "Some got rashes and many quit work. So when I get this kind of material now I bury it somewhere far away."
As U.S. bases in Iraq are closed, all hazardous materials are supposed to be either returned to the United States by ship or recycled in specially built facilities in northern and western Iraq, The Times said.
The Army says it is aware of the problem.
"We take this issue very seriously and want to solve the problem," Brig. Gen. Stephen Lanza, the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said. "There is a variety of ways in which this (dumping) could have happened. We are now putting a system into place. There is a lot of catching up to do."