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Courtroom Battle Brewing for Guardsmen, KBR

This week, the case pitting a small group of Oregon Guardsmen against one of the giants of military contracting gets underway in a Portland courtroom.

Soldiers assigned to patrol the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant in Iraq are suing the contractor KBR. They claim they weren’t told of contaminants at the plant, including hexavalent chromium, that put their health at risk. Some claim their health has already suffered.

The company has argued numerous times that the suit should not go forward, alleging there was no hazardous exposure. They’ve also cited the nature of the company’s business relationship with the US government and jurisdictional issues as possible reasons to reject the case.

But U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak has ordered the case to move forward. He’s further imposed a strict gag order on the participants. They haven’t been free to discuss the case or their strategies for months.

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