"KBR did safe, professional, and exceptional work in Iraq under difficult circumstances," Harrison said in the statement, and multiple U.S. Army officers testified under oath that KBR communicated openly and honestly about the potential health risks.
"We believe the facts and law ultimately will provide vindication."
KBR witnesses testified that the soldiers' maladies were a result of the desert air and pre-existing conditions. Even if they were exposed to sodium dichromate, KBR witnesses argued, the soldiers weren't around enough of it, for long enough, to cause serious health problems.
The contractor's defense ultimately rested on the fact that they informed the U.S. Army of the risks of exposure to sodium dichromate.
KBR was tasked with reconstructing the decrepit, scavenged plant just after the March 2003 invasion while National Guardsmen defended the area. Bags of unguarded sodium dichromate -- a corrosive substance used to keep pipes at the water plant free of rust -- were ripped open, allowing the substance to spread across the plant and into the air.
Attorneys for the 12 Oregon National Guardsmen focused on the months of April, May and June 2003, alleging KBR knew about the presence of sodium dichromate and took no action.
One of the soldiers' key witnesses, a doctor, testified that hexavalent chromium caused a change to soldiers' genes, leaving them more susceptible to cancer. KBR's attorneys challenged that diagnosis, saying the soldiers' witness was the only physician in the U.S. prepared to make such a diagnosis.
Plaintiff Jason Arnold said he understands that contractors are a necessity for often-specialized tasks, but he hopes the verdict forces the U.S. military to re-examine its relationship with the private defense industry.
"For a corporation to come in and have this much disregard for the health and well-being of men that are shedding blood, sweat and tears for this country," Arnold said, "for them to come in and to say that we mean less than their profit, is wrong."
During the Iraq war, KBR was the engineering and construction arm of Halliburton, the biggest U.S. contractor during the conflict. KBR split from Halliburton in April 2007.