Military: Investigation into S. Korea Agent Orange is overPosted: Updated:
For the last nine months the U.S. Army has drilled, tested and analyzed soil and water at Camp Carroll military base in South Korea for traces of Agent Orange.
The result of the roughly $4 million investigation is a 58-page report, in which the Army claims no traces of Agent Orange were found. The Army said the report effectively ends their investigation.
[Read the military's final report (PDF)]
An environmental expert, meanwhile, say the report's findings are proof that the contaminants found were a product of Agent Orange, and two others say that no matter where they came from, the chemical listed in the report are deadly.
The report was written in Korean and CBS 5 Investigates had to have it painstakingly translated in English.
Once CBS 5 had the translation, it matched it with the military's version, and presented it to three independent environmental experts, who analyzed the findings.
"No one should be drinking this water," said environmental expert Steve Brittle.
The military would have you believe otherwise, declaring publicly Agent Orange didn't show up in their investigation.
"They weren't entirely truthful, let's be honest," Brittle said. "The testing says what it says. They found it. They found what would reasonably be considered a cooled off version. Time has worn it down, but it's still there."
What the Army found, Brittle said, are two deadly components of Agent Orange, one of which is the most toxic chemical. According to the report, the components turned up in samples in two places on the base. The military argues that the hot spots do not mean Agent Orange was ever on the base.
"For (the two chemicals) to get there, it would probably have had to come from Agent Orange," said Brittle said.
The most deadly toxin, called 2,3,7,8-TCDD, is a marker left behind when Agent Orange decomposes, a tell-tale fingerprint, of sorts, Brittle said. And while it also can come from burning materials, Brittle said that's likely not the case at Camp Carroll because it wouldn't have seeped so deeply into the ground.
That's not all. A second major ingredient of Agent Orange, referred to as 2,4,5-T, was also discovered on the base.
"You found the dioxin. You found the contaminant. You found half the chemical constituents of Agent Orange," Brittle said.
But perhaps more alarming is the discovery of chemicals unanticipated by the military.
"You've got trichloroethylene, PCE (perchloroethylene) in the water," explains Environmental Compliance Supervisor Tom Curry.
"The groundwater beneath the base in areas, it's contaminated," Curry said.
When CBS 5 Investigates began pressing the military for answers months ago, the investigative team got hold of documents showing the military buried more than 100 different toxic chemicals, solvents and contaminants on the base in 1978 and dug them up a year later.
Yet, the report shows many of those chemicals are still present in the soil and in the water - more than three decades later.
"The more contaminants you have, the worse the water has got to be for public health," Curry said.
Particularly worrisome are large amounts of the pesticide Dieldrin found on the base and in the drinking water wells. Dieldrin was eventually banned internationally in 1987 because of the harmful effects it poses to humans, fish and wildlife, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
During a CBS 5 investigation in South Korea in July 2011, the CBS 5 team found several children sick with leukemia living near the U.S. base.
"I would say there's a 99 percent likelihood that their leukemia was caused by these chemicals," said Brittle.
"I would be concerned for the people who are drinking the water from those wells," said water expert and Arizona State University professor Dr. Peter Fox.
He explains that even today the harm is still being done.
"They should immediately shut those wells off and find other sources of water until they can resolve how to clean it up."
"There's clearly a public health risk there," Fox said.
The military claims its investigation is over. But the three experts say it shouldn't be, not by a long shot.
"For them not to bring up the fact they need to do a decontamination of the site is kind of appalling," Fox said.
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