On Monday, lawyers filed two suits against Lockheed Martin. They allege that the weapons manufacturer spawned an “environmental nightmare” by exposing people to toxic chemicals in Orlando. Just in case you needed another reason to fight the military industrial complex.
Law firm Morgan and Morgan filed the two complaints against the arms and defense contractor in a federal court on Monday. The first, a consolidated personal injury lawsuit, was filed on behalf of 13 workers at the Golf Channel’s Orlando complex that sits just across a busy road from Lockheed Martin’s facilities where the firm conducts tests on bombs, missiles, and other weapons. The second, a class action suit, represents all individuals who live or work near the facility in the southwest part of Orlando known as Tangelo Park.
The lawsuits accuse the arms and defense contractor of releasing contaminants into the soil and groundwater, exposing those nearby to harmful heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and other vile pollutants that can harm people’s health.
“The operations at the Orlando Facility utilize chemicals that are among the most toxic to human health on Earth, and require the utmost care and handling,” the Golf Channel employees’ suit. “Instead of carefully managing these toxins from the moment they arrived at the facility, and ensuring they were properly used, stored, and disposed of, Lockheed Martin stored toxins in leaking storage tanks, collected and transported waste materials in leaking underground piping systems, and dumped thousands of tons of highly toxic waste sludges into trenches dug throughout the Orlando Facility.”
All of this mismanagement, the litigation says, caused a truly wild amount of pollution. For instance, the Environmental Protection Agency limits the concentration of methylene chloride and trichloroethylene in drinking water to 5 parts per billion (ppb). But the litigation alleges those two compounds were found in concentrations as high as 386,000 ppb and 213,600 ppb, respectively.
The suits acknowledge that the arms dealer took steps to contain the toxic leakage, installing air strippers and soil vapor extraction systems to suck up the contaminants and turn them into gases. But once it did, the suit says, the company didn’t contain those gases—it merely expelled them into the air, putting residents and workers at further risk.
As a result of the pollution, many suffered “strange illnesses,” Morgan and Morgan attorneys told reporters on Monday. Affected workers and community members were diagnosed with major health issues, including brain lesions, multiple sclerosis, and various forms of cancer.
Heartbreakingly, one couple represented by the class action suit says their child was born with “deformed hands, fingers, and toes, and ectodermal dysplasia,” as well as without tear ducts, which has caused him “constant discomfort.”
In addition damages for the victims’ medical treatment and suffering, the litigation seeks medical monitoring program to detect illness among the thousands of people in the plant’s radius. Lockheed Martin employs 8,000 people in the Orlando area, and thousands more live near the massive complex. The suits also call for the federal court to force the firm to immediately halt their mismanagement of toxic waste. Lockheed Martin told local station News 6 it was reviewing the suits.
This is far from the first time the weapons contractor has been accused of environmental justice abuses. In fact, just a few weeks ago, former nuclear workers and their families filed a suit accusing U.S. Department of Energy contractors—including Lockheed Martin—of “poisoning workers and the people, land, air and water for miles” around a now-shuttered plant in southern Ohio. And in 2016, the firm paid $5 million to settle a claim that it misrepresented its compliance with hazardous waste regulations at a facility in Kentucky. Of course, this toxic production chain is all in service of the company’s even more detestable business practices of supplying deadly war products, including explosives used to kill Yemeni children and weapons used during the Iraq War to decimate an entire country’s social fabric.
Publicly, Lockheed Martin likes to wax poetic about its new green initiatives to create a “more sustainable future.” But these new lawsuits are just more proof that the company is anything but sustainable. Despite all this, the U.S. government keeps funnelling billions of dollars of taxpayer money into the firm. To which I say fuck that.