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No Agent Orange found at former U.S. base in Bucheon

A joint investigation team said Thursday that no traces of Agent Orange were found at a former U.S. base in Bucheon, Gyeonggi Province, where toxic chemicals were allegedly dumped in the 1960s, officials said Thursday.

The team comprised of civil, government and military officials reached the conclusion after analyzing soil samples they took from 14 spots inside the base called Camp Mercer. An engineer unit under Korean Army’s Capital Corps currently uses the site.

“After the analysis in light of the 21 contamination criteria was carried out, there were no soil samples showing signs of contamination that exceed the minimum contamination level applied to defense and military facilities,” Lee Sang-hoon, environment engineering professor at the Catholic University who has led the team.

In a water quality testing conducted on a well inside the site in June, there was no dioxin found, Lee said.

“To wrap it up, we concluded that there was no sufficient evidence to say that there is any chemical contamination that stems from the burial of toxic chemicals such as Agent Orange,” Lee said. “We will explain this to the residents there next Monday to address their concerns over the alleged contamination.”

A former U.S. soldier claimed seven years ago that his unit in Bucheon dumped “every imaginable chemical” there in the 1960s.

On a website for former U.S. Forces Korea troops, named “Korean War Project,” Stephen Stallard disclosed the claim by another veteran with a post titled, “Chemicals dumped at Camp Mercer.”

Ray Bows, who served for the 44th Engineer Construction Battalion at the camp in Bucheon from July 1963 to April 1964, made the claim on the website on May 24, 2004.

“We dug a pit with a bulldozer ― donned rubber suits and gas masks and dumped every imaginable chemical ― hundreds of gallons if not more ― into the ground on a knoll behind the second storage warehouse on the right.”

The comment further escalated public anxiety over toxic chemical contamination by U.S. troops here, who are alleged to have buried a considerable amount of Agent Orange at a base in Waegwan, North Gyeongsang Province, in 1978.

By Song Sang-ho (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)
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