National
Cancer-causing pollutants found in water at U.S. base
Published : Aug 5, 2011 - 19:10
Updated : Aug 5, 2011 - 19:10
A joint Korea-U.S. team investigating the alleged burial of Agent Orange at one of the U.S. army bases here said Friday that it has found no evidence yet to believe that the toxic defoliant was buried. Still, it found a trace amount of dioxin, unrelated to Agent Orange, and significant amounts of other harmful substances in groundwater on Camp Carroll, located in Chilgok, North Gyeongsang Province.

“Thus far no indication of Agent Orange was discovered in the water on Camp Carroll, or in the soil, sediment samples taken in the adjacent community,” the team said in a press release, announcing findings so far of their probe Friday.

Neither major components nor by-products of Agent Orange were detected in any of the groundwater samples taken inside the camp. A trace amount of unrelated dioxin was detected in some wells, the team said.

However, pollutants such as trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene were found at levels exceeding the Korean drinking water standards. The TCE and PCE are believed to cause cancer.

One of the sample had the TCE of O.743 milligrams per liter, way beyond the maximum allowable level in drinking water of 0.03 mg/L. In the case of PCE, the highest level reported was 0.497 mg/L, compared to the standard of 0.01 mg/L.

“There is no indication of where these pollutants originated,” the team said, noting that they are unrelated to Agent Orange. Environmental issues other than the Agent Orange claim will be discussed within the framework of the environmental subcommittee under the State of the Forces Agreement between Korea and the U.S., it said.

Further tests are underway for on-post soils in a bid to verify a claim by U.S. veteran Steve House that he helped bury hundreds of drums believed to contain Agent Orange near a helipad in 1978 while he was stationed at Camp Carroll.

Soil samples were taken from about 40 “anomalous” spots identified by a geophysical survey of the helipad area, the alleged site of burial. The results are expected to come out at the end of this month.

Agent Orange is a defoliant widely used by the U.S. during the Vietnam War. It is believed to cause cancer, birth defects and other diseases.

During his visit to the camp on July 27, House pointed at a slope near the helipad, not the helipad itself, as the burial site.

The team said it will “incorporate the new information that House provided.”

Geophysical survey will begin Saturday for the area where House newly pointed, and subsequent soil sampling will be conducted for that area, it said.

The joint survey team comprises 16 Koreans and 10 Americans and is co-chaired by Ok Gon, a professor of Bookyung University, and Colonel Joseph F. Birchmeier of the U.S. Army.

By Lee Sun-young (milaya@heraldcorp.com)
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