The United States Department of Defense should use the same energy in cleaning up the toxic contamination at military bases that it spent on Operation Desert Storm, according to the National Toxics Campaign Fund (NTCF). ``We're asking them to spend $10 billion a year for the next 10 years and launch Operation Toxic Storm,'' says Gary Cohen, the executive director of the environmental watchdog group based in Boston.

A report released Wednesday in more than 40 states asserts that 14,000 sites at more than 1,500 bases nationwide are polluted. One hundred of those sites are on the Superfund National Priorities List. The wastes include solvents, oils, heavy metals, PCBs, photographic chemicals, refrigerants, asbestos, cyanide, and medical wastes.

The NTCF has tested three of those sites and found high levels of toxic metals such as mercury, lead, and cadmium in surrounding water supplies. Health groups are exploring the higher rates of cancer and other health problems in some communities near sites.

The NTCF does say that the Pentagon is starting to acknowledge its past environmental mistakes and is working at reducing the amount of hazardous waste it produces. But it could go farther. NTCF recommendations include:

That the military spend more on cleanup than the 0.4 percent it now spends.

That it begin reporting toxic chemical releases into the air, water, and ground under the Toxic Release Inventory of the Community Right to Know Act as private companies are required to do.

That the military's exemption from state and Environmental Protection Agency hazardous-waste enforcement be revoked.

That it provide compensation for those whose lives and property were damaged by the contamination.

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