No evidence of buried chemical drums, Agent Orange found in latest testing in Korea
SEOUL — No evidence of chemical drums has been found on a hillside at Camp Carroll where a former soldier claims he buried Agent Orange more than three decades ago, a joint U.S.-South Korean investigation team said Friday.
Soil coring samples in that area found “nothing unusual,” according to a news release from the investigation team.
“Based on current scientific results, there are no indications that Agent Orange was buried at Camp Carroll,” the 8th Army said in a separate statement released late Friday afternoon.
South Korean investigators say they did detect traces of 2,4,5-T – an herbicide that is a component of Agent Orange – in groundwater testing at one spot near Carroll’s helipad, in the vicinity of where the veteran says he buried the defoliant. But the levels of 2,4,5-T -- which was commonly used in weed killers -- pose no threat to human health and are more than 50 times below World Health Organization drinking water guidelines, according to the release.
The U.S. military, which has collected and analyzed samples separately from South Korea, did not detect the compound.
A second groundwater survey will be conducted to verify the results, and the U.S. and South Korea will hold further discussions “to ensure the results are as accurate as possible,” release said.
The former soldier, Steve House, 55, came forward in May with allegations he helped bury hundreds of barrels of the defoliant while he was stationed at Carroll as a specialist in 1978. He said his alleged exposure to Agent Orange, which has been linked to a number of life-threatening illnesses, has made him sick with diabetes and several other conditions.
House’s claims prompted the U.S. and South Korea to begin extensive soil and water sampling around the helipad, but found no evidence of Agent Orange has been found so far.
House, in an interview from his Michigan home a day before the test results were released, said he believed the military would never admit to the burial because it would be an embarrassment to those involved in the incident.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that it was Agent Orange, but they’re (the military) not going to fess up to Agent Orange,” House said.
South Korean investigators also tested wells outside of Camp Carroll, and found a “very small amount” of two chemicals -- 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, both components of Agent Orange -- in one well, according to the joint investigation team. However, no evidence of either chemical was found during a retest of the well, the team said.
The U.S. military did not test any groundwater outside the base, according to the 8th Army.
U.S. military documents show that a large number of chemical barrels were buried in the area around the helipad in 1978, but were removed in 1979 and 1980 along with 40 to 60 tons of soil. The fate of those barrels -- and what was inside them -- has been a key question in the ongoing investigation.
Lt. Col. Andrew Mutter, an 8th Army spokesman, said Friday that the military has concluded the barrels and soil were taken by military transport to Pusan and then shipped to the U.S., likely to Tooele Army Depot in Utah.
The military based its assertion on interviews of more than 170 people, information gathered from outside agencies and reviews of “pertinent” documents, he said.
“Although we do not have definitive documentation stating the final disposition, we believe based on the interview and documentation obtained thus far, this is the most plausible location,” he said.