USFK verified toxins in 2004, investigation reveals

Posted on : 2011-06-28 14:59 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
The revelation may be controversial, as the USFK did not notify S.Korea or take appropriate countermeasures

By Nam Jong-young 


Amid an ongoing examination by a joint South Korean-U.S. investigation team into allegations that Agent Orange was buried at the U.S. base of Camp Carroll in the Waegwan Township of North Gyeongsang’s Chilgok County, it emerged Monday that United States Forces Korea (USFK) previously verified the presence of a pit containing buried chemicals within the camp during a 2004 investigation. Analysts say the revelation is likely to cause controversy, as USFK did not previously notify the South Korean government of its findings.

According to a draft report obtained by the Hankyoreh on Monday for a preliminary study for treatment of environmental pollution in Camp Carroll, the U.S. military discovered indications of a burial site within the camp measuring 25 meters in length, 14 meters in width, and six meters in depth in 2004. Following a subsequent soil study, the U.S. military confirmed contamination with high concentrations of highly carcinogenic perchloroethylene (PCE). Also detected were pesticides, heavy metals, and components of dioxin, which is connected to Agent Orange.

The report, which contains details on environmental pollution in the area of the Bachelor Enlisted Quarters (BEQ) Hill to the northeast of the camp, was drafted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Far East Command in February and submitted to the command of the U.S. Army garrison in Daegu. The burial site is located approximately one kilometer to the north of a heliport and nearby Zone D, which were named by U.S. veteran Steve House and others as defoliant burial sites in a U.S. broadcast. Because of the small size of the site, analysts are speculating that it was a third chemical burial site within Camp Carroll.

The report also says that Gu Ja-yeong, a Korean employee who worked at the base, testified to taking part in the burial of drums, cans, and bottles containing chemicals here in 1974 and 1975, using five to six five-ton trucks.

According to the report, the U.S. military conducted regular examinations of the contamination status in this region. A 1992 study by the U.S. military contractor Woodward-Clyde observed ground subsidence. An underground water inspection at the time detected carcinogenic trichloroethylene (TCE) and PCE, among other chemicals. The U.S. military also continued observing the region after 2004, as it was scouting for a location to build apartments for soldiers.

Following a study conducted between last year and February of this year, the U.S. recommended monitoring once or twice per year and the removal of soil from around the burial site, claiming that it had detected chloroform in the area’s underground water at nearly 24 times the standard South Korean levels for potable water. Chloroform is a carcinogen that can cause liver, kidney, and nervous system problems.

The South Korean government, however, did not receive the findings for four separate environmental contamination studies. The result was a situation in which the U.S. military conducted studies while possessing full knowledge of the situation, while South Korea was unable to make proper requests due to the restrictions on information. Owing to the information imbalance, the investigation was restricted to only certain regions, including Zone D, during discussions between the two countries.

Environmental groups are demanding that the U.S. military disclose all its information about environmental contamination and expand the scope of regions under investigation to include the whole of Camp Carroll.

Hong Hee-deok, a lawmaker on the National Assembly’s Environment and Labor Committee, said, “For all intents and purposes, the U.S. military deceived the South Korean government.”

“The U.S. military needs to disclose information in a transparent manner about the places where it has conducted environmental contamination studies,” Hong added.


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