Tainted water that was supplied by a major US contractor maybe a reason why dozens of US soldiers fell ill in Iraq between 2005 and 2006, according to a Pentagon report released Monday.
Although a definite link could not be established, the tainted water was supplied by KBR, the global engineering, construction and services company which plays a leading role in providing support to US forces in Iraq.
KBR's water quality "was not maintained in accordance with field water sanitary standards" and the military-run sites "were not performing all required quality control tests," the Defense Department's Office of Inspector General said in its report on the incidents.
"On three separate occasions KBR did not meet the established requirements for quality monitoring and maintenance of non-potable water," the document said.
"As a result, water quality ... may have degraded to the point of causing waterborne illnesses among US forces."
The sickened solders, stationed at five separate military bases, were stricken with abscesses, skin infections, diarrhea and other ailments after having been supplied the tainted water for washing and bathing.
The IG report found that "water suppliers exposed US forces to unmonitored and potentially unsafe water."
The investigators concluded that although there is "no way to determine whether water provided by the contractor and military water purification units caused disease ... contractors and military units responsible for water operations must always ensure that water provided to the forces meet all established standards."
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell emphasized however that no definite link between the outbreak of illness and the water has been established.
"Based upon this IG report, there is no evidence that any of the illnesses were related to the water," he said, adding that since 2006 all water supplied to US troops "has met all the standards."
Spokeswoman Heather Browne, KBR director of communications, said Monday that any problems with the quality of the water provided to soldiers in Iraq had been rectified.
"KBR's production and treatment of water used by the troops and KBR's own personnel has met or exceeded all applicable military and contract standards," she said.