The 8th Army said Monday that chemicals were buried at Camp Carroll in 1978 but were removed during the following two years, a finding that could back claims made last week by U.S. veterans who said they helped bury Agent Orange there.
A 1992 Army Corps of Engineers environmental assessment found that a “large number” of drums containing pesticides, herbicides and solvents were buried at the base. The study did not say if Agent Orange was among those chemicals, according to an 8th Army news release.
Three former soldiers told a Phoenix television station last week that they helped bury the toxic chemical — used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War — at Camp Carroll in the late 1970s and continue to suffer health problems related to their exposure to it.
According to the study, the chemicals and between 40 and 60 tons of soil were removed in 1979 and 1980 and disposed of outside the base.
“Eighth Army officials are still trying to determine why the materials were buried and how it was disposed after it was excavated,” the release said.
Subsequent testing in 2004 revealed trace amounts of dioxin, a component of Agent Orange, in one of 13 test holes bored at and around the site where the chemicals where buried, according to the release. That amount was not large enough to be hazardous to human health, the 8th Army said.
The U.S. and South Korea have launched their own investigations into the matter, and agreed over the weekend to conduct a joint investigation. Officials from both countries toured the base Saturday and were briefed on past testing at Camp Carroll. A larger group that included environmental experts, a representative from an environmental activist group, and three local officials toured the base Monday.
More environmental data was to be given to a representative from South Korea’s Ministry of Environment on Monday, the 8th Army said.
A ministry official said that analysts have collected soil and water samples from outside Camp Carroll but have not received results yet. He also said that the ministry will not interview the three soldiers who claimed to have buried Agent Orange at the base because officials do not believe it is necessary. Activists have held small protests outside the base in the past few days, according to South Korean media reports.
U.S. officials, including USFK commander Gen. Walter Sharp, have said that its investigation will be as transparent as possible.
Approximately 3,850 people work at Camp Carroll and 900 people live there.
Yoo Kyong Chang contributed to this story.