Thousands of sites in Iraq contaminated with chemicals, uranium, more

Donald Rumsfeld wasn’t kidding when he said freedom is messy. More than 20 years of war and neglect have left Iraq with serious chemical spills, heavy-metals contamination, and widespread pollution from depleted uranium — and the cleaning bill could run up to $40 million. The U.N. Environment Program examined five sites near Baghdad for environmental hazards, part of a program training Iraqis in toxic cleanups, the agency reported on Thursday. Among the grim results: At the Al-Qadyissa metal-plating plant, demolished in 2003 after being bombed and looted, UNEP found several tons of cyanide pellets scattered about the unsecured site — now used by children as a playground. It’s not clear how remediation will be funded. “There are hundreds, probably thousands of other sites with the need of assessment,” said Mural Thummarukudy, UNEP’s manager in Iraq, who asked for donations to help with cleanup efforts.