Initial findings reveal dioxins in water near Camp Carroll, South Korea.Posted: Updated:
In May, A CBS 5 Investigation reported three valley veterans claiming to have buried massive amounts of Agent Orange, causing international attention and prompting an investigation by the U.S. military and Korean Government.
Steve House, Richard Cramer and Robert Travis told CBS 5 Investigates that in 1978, they buried hundreds of 55 gallon drums filled with Agent Orange and other toxic chemicals. According to the three veterans, they filled a ditch the length of a city block with them.
The U.S. and South Korean investigation is examining the water, soil and scanning portions of the military base using ground penetrating technology.
The testing has been going on for weeks. Initial findings reveal small amounts of dioxins in three of six streams near Camp Carroll, South Korea. Dioxin is a key ingredient and the most toxic part of Agent Orange.
Tom Curry is a hydrology and water quality specialist. He has nearly 30 years experience. Curry reviewed the initial report provided to CBS 5 by the U.S. Military. "It's something you would not want to have in your water," he added.
CBS 5 also provided the initial findings for Dr. Peter Fox, a water contamination expert. "They really don't understand what those concentrations are coming from still," said Fox, a Civil, Environmental and Sustainable Engineer at Arizona State University. In other words, he's worried the military has not pinpointed the exact spot where the veterans buried the Agent Orange.
Yet, the U.S. Military's headlines read, "No Evidence of Agent Orange at Camp Carroll."
According to Curry, it's nearly impossible to conclude that Agent Orange was not buried on the base with just these water samples. "It may be at real low levels at the top and real low levels in the middle but the highest amounts down at the ground level," he added.
Curry and Fox tell us that basically, dioxins are heavier than water and would seep down through the dirt and into the water supply. As the dioxins approach rock-bottom, they would be carried away by the underground current. After 30 years, the experts say it's difficult to predict how far the contamination has traveled.
As for the dioxins found, Fox emphasizes that there is good news for people living near the base. "The amounts they are finding are probably not very dangerous," he added.
Yet, Tetrachloroethylene is extremely dangerous and the cancer-causing chemical was found in three different drinking wells around the base by the joint investigation. It is also known as perchlorethylene. One of the wells had levels too high for drinking water.
"Perchlorethylene is a dry cleaning compound." Curry says. "You've probably got a large plume of ground water contaminated with PERC and you're looking at needing to clean-it up," he added.
We asked the water quality specialist if the investigation is anywhere close to being over. "I would say no," said Curry.