USFK and S.Korea clash over Agent Orange investigation

Posted on : 2011-06-01 14:45 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
The USFK’s investigation methods cannot measure soil and groundwater contamination

By Nam Jong-young 
Conflict has reportedly erupted between United States Forces Korea (USFK) and South Korean government over the method for conducting an investigation on the U.S. military base at Camp Carroll in Waegwan, North Gyeongsang Province, the suspected site of Agent Orange burial. USFK is insisting on using ground-penetrating radar (GPR), while the South Korean government is demanding sampling of soil and underground water.
A Ministry of Environment official said Tuesday that the USFK is calling to conclude the investigation by using GPR at the suspected burial location.
“The South Korean government has repeatedly stated that this kind of investigation is incapable of resolving the questions harbored by the population,” the official said.
The GPR method involves using radar pulses on the ground around the suspected defoliant burial site to determine the presence of foreign matter. While it is capable of verifying the presence of canisters containing harmful materials, it cannot verify contamination of soil or underground water.
For this reason, the Ministry of Environment reportedly issued strong calls at the latest environmental subcommittee meeting for collecting and analyzing small soil and water samples. Sources reported brief tension among the participants in the meeting, with South Korean committee members storming out after the U.S. demurred at the proposal.
“What the USFK is really troubled about is not dioxin, but other toxic and carcinogenic materials,” said an official on the joint civilian-government team investigating the periphery of Camp Carroll.
“If we test soil and underground water samples, the investigation may turn up other toxic materials besides dioxin,” the official explained.
Indeed, a 2004 investigation commissioned from the Samsung C&T Corporation by Camp Carroll found quantities of highly carcinogenic trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE) at 31 and 33 times the standard levels for potable water, respectively.
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