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The Amicus Journal

What The U.S. Navy Left Behind

October 1, 2000
Copyright © 2000 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright © 2000 Natural Resources Council Fall 2000. All Rights Reserved.

For sixty years the 9,000 people of Vieques , a small island off the main island of Puerto Rico , have been forced to share their home with a U.S. Navy bombing range. The island is now littered with thousands of pounds of military hardware, including rusting tanks, planes, and inert bombs such as the one in this photograph. Years of protest by the Puerto Rican people to end these military maneuvers have fallen on deaf ears. So when a coalition of island activists asked NRDC to join their struggle to stop the destruction, NRDC accepted.

"It's a classic portrait of environmental injustice," explains Michelle Alvarez, staff attorney at NRDC and head of its environmental justice unit. "The Department of Defense carried out these hazardous activities in a community that has limited access to political, financial, and legal resources. Decades of war games by the U.S. government on its own citizens have created health threats and jeopardized natural resources."

NRDC, along with other groups, is considering a lawsuit against the U.S. Navy, aimed at ensuring that it cleans up the island in compliance with environmental laws, so that the land and water there can be returned to the people.

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