A U.S. military base wasted $5 million on trash incinerators in Afghanistan it will never use, according to a new report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided in 2010 to build two new trash incinerators at Forward Operating Base Solerno in Khowst province to keep up with the 2011-2012 troop surge, then later decided they cost too much to maintain and let them fall into disrepair. Instead, the base uses open-air burn pits, which can produce harmful fumes.
“These incinerators didn’t burn trash—but they did burn up taxpayer money,” said Special Inspector General John F. Sopko. “Worse, using open-air burn pits in their place puts the health of our troops at risk.”
When a contractor finished the incinerators in 2011, they already had several problems, including leaking hydraulic lines and missing pipes. Based on those deficiencies and their $1 million yearly operating and maintenance costs, USACE decided to let the incinerators sit idle and unusable.
By the time inspectors arrived in September 2012, the incinerators were not only in bad shape, but posed a serious health risk as well. Equipment was corroded, sensitive instruments were broken and standing water offered the perfect breeding ground for malaria-bearing mosquitos.
Meanwhile, FOB Solerno plans to keep using open-air burn pits instead of switching to a contracted trash service this summer as it had planned, the SIGAR said.