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Massachusetts Legislator's Bill Spotlights Burn Pit Registry


   A Massachusetts state legislator is hoping to highlight a potential health risk to recent military veterans.

    Service members deployed overseas in the last 30 years may have been exposed to airborne toxins because of the common practice of burning chemicals and waste in open pits.

   State Rep. John Velis, a Democrat from Westfield, said these so-called “burn pits” could be to this generation of veterans what Agent Orange was to Vietnam vets.

   His bill would require local veterans service officers and other state agencies to promote a registry set up by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to self-report exposure to burn pits.

   Velis is a major in the U.S. Army Reserves and was deployed twice to Afghanistan.

    WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill spoke with Velis.         

   Velis is a candidate in the March 31st special election to fill the State Senate seat left open by the resignation of Don Humason, who is now the mayor of Westfield. 

  Velis is the only Democrat running.  John Cain, a businessman from Southwick, is the Republican candidate.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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