Lawmaker: High PCB levels found on former U.S. bases
January 22, 2007
SEOUL — U.S. Forces Korea officials offered little comment about a South Korean lawmaker’s claims that PCB-laden electronic transformers were discovered on 10 U.S. facilities recently returned to his country.
Governing Uri Party Representative Woo Won-shik announced Thursday that the Ministry of Environment has reported that transformers containing polychlorinated biphenyls exceeding South Korean environmental standards were found on 10 former U.S. facilities returned to South Korea in July, according to a Korea Times report.
He claimed PCBs were in the list of toxic chemicals USFK promised to clean up, according to the news report, and wants USFK to reopen discussions on the base return.
Woo also is on the National Assembly’s Environment and Labor Committee, according to the Korea Times.
USFK spokesman Dave Oten said Friday that while he was aware of media reports on the issue, he didn’t have access to the ministry’s report.
But, he added, USFK returned the facilities in accord with environmental standards agreed upon by South Korea and the United States.
USFK officials have told Stars and Stripes the agreement called for returning sites without environmental treatment of pollutants beyond those posing “known, imminent, and substantial endangerments to human health.”
The U.S. military has said it went beyond its requirements by removing underground fuel tanks at all returned bases and heavy metals from firing ranges. USFK also contracted with a South Korean company to remove fuel contamination of ground water at five closed camps.
However, some South Koreans argued that the United States should do more — and 18 months of talks failed to produce agreement about which nation should pay for pollution removal.
But in July, South Korea finally accepted the return of 15 former U.S. military sites. USFK officials said dozens of other sites valued at more than $1 billion were to be returned to South Korea within four years.