Whistleblower’s documentation of toxic contamination is ignored to protect community’s image, while reporters and advocates marginalized as ‘unprofessional troublemakers’ and ‘conspiracy theorists.’
Was Agent Orange, the notorious toxic defoliant used in the Vietnam War, buried improperly near the now-closed Chanute Air Force Base outside of Rantoul, Illinois?
There are several whistleblowers and journalists that have been trying to bring the story to the public’s attention and implement the proper safety measures, but it seems several forces at work in the town and near the former base are less interested in containing the potential contamination that in maintaining the town’s reputation.
Reporter Bob Bajek wrote in his April 1, 2014 piece:
A day after publication, the Rantoul Press’ general manager, Tim Evans, talked to me about the Agent Orange stories. Evans, a hefty 59-year-old newspaperman, said these stories “weren’t what community newspapers were about and made the town look bad.”
[…] Evans told me the Rantoul Press would never publish any story about the possibility of dioxin in the water because it would ruin the town. Evans said no newspaper or news organization would pick it up.
Hazardous chemicals expert and Chanute Restoration Advisory Board Member Doug Rokke brought forward documents and testimony from the whistleblower Michael Glasser showing that he handled and disposed of Agent Orange and other harmful chemicals near the base in the 1960s and is now 100% disabled from his activity in pesticide management and now has bladder, prostate and urethra cancer from his time in the service.
Bob Bajek wrote in the News-Gazette back in August 2013:
Doug Rokke — a retired Army major who served in Vietnam and the first Gulf War and obtained a Ph.D. in education from the University of Illinois — said he has a contact who worked at Chanute in the 1960s and sprayed the defoliant on the base by Hangar 3, other hangars and along Officers Row.
Rokke said his source, who later was revealed to be Michael Glasser of Florida, told him he buried Agent Orange by Heritage Lake.
“He met with several of us and provided us with documentation,” Rokke said. “He said he contacted the EPA, who blew him off. The same thing happened to me with my conversation with the EPA office in Champaign. He raised a concern because Agent Orange was deliberately and willfully used on Chanute Air Force Base. The individual who did it provided the documentation. He has a 100 percent disability as a result of his personal use of Agent Orange. That whole question came up. That’s something we need to look up and investigate.”
But several accounts show that officials ensured that Glasser’s account was not heard, that Rokke would be marginalized and kicked out of public meetings and that stories would not appear in the papers about the dangerous chemicals that could cause multiple types of cancer and birth defects.
Bajek further wrote in his lengthy, personal April 2014 account about his firing and the cover-up on Agent Orange and dioxins:
Debra Rawlings, a former Rantoul Press reporter who once covered the RAB… [wrote]: “Reporter Bob Bajek is relying on information from RAB member and conspiracy theorist Doug Rokke” and “Mr. Bajek might consider that he is only as credible as his sources.”
It was when she was asking that question that Rantoul police entered the meeting. A police press release later said that someone at the meeting was concerned when RAB member Doug Rokke left the meeting after a heated discussion and returned with a backpack. When Rokke reached into the backpack, he was physically restrained by the police and then roughly led out the room for questioning. The action postponed the meeting for about 10 minutes.
Rokke said the police released him and apologized for detaining him. They said a man from the meeting called saying he was making threatening gestures and was reaching for a possible weapon in a backpack. Rokke showed the police his backpack. It was filled with public documents.
There is ample evidence here for concern about environmental contamination and possible harmful health effects to area residents, given the serious risks of Agent Orange and dioxin, yet there appears to be every effort to look the other way and pretend no problem exists…
Read more from this long Chanute saga, and maybe the truth will out at last:
One Reporter’s Experience Covering the Environment in the Heartland
Officials dispute claim of Agent Orange at Chanute
Illinois EPA Site Summary 2013 – Chanute Air Force Base
Dr. Doug Rokke, Ph.D. – Former Director of the U.S. Army’s Depleted Uranium Project reveals toxic effects of America’s Military Operations
Agent Orange toxic chemicals at Chanute Air Force Base
Meet Doug Rokke: Chanute Restoration Advisory Board Member