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Agent Orange probe result due this week

July 3, 2011 - 19:49 By 신혜인
A Korea-U.S. team will announce this week an interim report on the results of a ground-pollution probe into an American army base here, where U.S. veterans claim their unit buried tons of toxic chemical in 1978.

The joint team said it will unveil the probe results during a Status of Forces Agreement environment committee session on this coming Wednesday or Thursday.

The team has been conducting investigations at a helipad and nearby sites in Camp Carroll in the southeastern Chilgok region, where three U.S. veterans, stationed there in the 1970s, claimed on a U.S. TV program that hundreds of drums of Agent Orange were likely to have been buried.

Ground-penetrating radars and electrical resistivity devices were mobilized to investigate some 41 sites since late May.

“It takes more than a week to analyze results of the investigations,” a local official of the joint team said on the condition of anonymity. “We will first announce the results of the probe at the helipad and unveil the rest of the results as soon as the analyzing is all done.”

One of the former soldiers had named the helipad as the main site where more than 250 drums of the toxic chemical were buried.

Some strange symptoms have been picked up by the GPR radars and ER devices in the density of the soil, according to another official, who declined to elaborate further until an official report is released.

Along with the helipad, the joint team has been inspecting “Area D,” a swath of land reportedly used as a “hazardous waste landfill” from 1977-1982.

News reports said that in the 11,250-square-meter area, more than 100 kinds of harmful chemicals including pesticides and herbicides were buried, citing a report by Samsung C&T.

The U.S. Far East Command commissioned Samsung C&T to survey the area in 2003.

The alleged dumping of Agent Orange has prompted public calls for a full-scale environmental inspection of all U.S. military facilities in Korea as well as the 85 sites that the U.S. returned to the Seoul government between 1990 and 2003 without environmental surveys.

Some here have also been demanding the somewhat slack SOFA be revised to have the U.S. army fully responsible for any possible contamination in its bases here.

The Eight U.S. Army in Seoul had claimed in a press release last week that a 2010 report, based on soil samples of some 26 regions near the helipad, does not show any signs of Agent Orange or contamination exceeding the level set by the US Environment Protection Agency.

During this week’s committee, Seoul and Washington will also decide on the method for future soil contamination investigations. While the U.S. wants to conduct a soil coring, a simpler method focused on taking soil sample by sticking a thin stick in the ground, the South Korean government wants to conduct an in depth exploratory trenching.

By Shin Hae-in (