The United States Office of Special Council has found that the United States Navy failed to provide protection to fire fighters against hazardous materials while employed at the Naval Air Station Alameda, Calif., and found the Navy’s actions and subsequent investigations deficient.
The federal fire fighters employed at the base, which closed in 1997, were repeatedly exposed to hazardous materials, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), lead, mercury, dioxin and various pesticides, while working in work/training areas that the Navy knew were contaminated. The Navy failed to inform the fire fighters of the hazards and failed to provide them with proper protective clothing and equipment. The IAFF 16th District vice president and the IAFF Department of Occupational Health and Safety assisted former IAFF Local F-259 during this long battle with the Navy. When the Navy failed to protect the fire fighters, Local F-259 filed a formal complaint with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC).
The OSC is an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency. Its primary responsibility is to safeguard federal employees from prohibited personnel practices, especially reprisal for whistleblowing. OSC also serves as a safe and secure channel for federal workers who wish to disclose violations of laws, gross mismanagement or waste of funds, abuse of authority, and a specific danger to the public health and safety.
The OSC does not independently investigate. By law, the OSC requires the agency head to conduct an investigation and submit a report to OSC. The OSC then analyzes the agency documentation, provides its finding, comments or recommendations, and forwards the information to the President of the United States and the congressional committees with jurisdiction over the agency.
The OSC found that the disclosures by IAFF Local F-259 demonstrated a substantial likelihood of violations of law and substantial and specific danger to public health and safety and directed the Navy to conduct a full investigation and deliver a written report.
After review of the Navy’s report, the Office of Special Council concluded that the Navy failed to comply with the law in properly addressing the allegations presented by IAFF Local F-259, and accordingly placed the health and safety of the former fire fighters employed at Alameda NAS at risk.
The IAFF clearly believes the OSC action corroborates our protracted efforts. Although remediation or changes in work practices are moot issues now that NAS Alameda is closed, we believe that the federal fire fighters formerly employed at the base must be contacted and given a written statement for their medical records. To this end and based on this information, the IAFF will attempt to locate of the federal firefighters employed at NAS Alameda during this period. The IAFF wants to ensure that these federal firefighters are aware of the potential heath risks associated with this exposure. In addition, the IAFF wants to ensure that the medical/personnel records of these firefighters are properly documented to include this exposure while employed at NAS Alameda, and to ensure that these firefighters are placed in a medical surveillance program. The IAFF also will assist our federal affiliates in addressing any Workers’ Compensation Claims (if warranted) associated with any illness connected with such exposures of former NAS Alameda fire fighters.
The IAFF will contact the Clinton administration and key members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees to seek their support and assistance in getting DOD and the Department of the Navy to take the necessary actions to identify and locate all federal firefighters employed at NAS Alameda during this period and to document their medical/personnel records accordingly.
The IAFF asks that if you are or know of any federal firefighter who was employed at NAS Alameda during this period to contact 16th District Vice President A. Nick Davila.