Agent Orange testing limited to base

AGENT ORANGE: A U.S. Army Huey helicopter sprays Agent Orange over Vietnamese agricultural land during the Vietnam War. A contractor to test Guam's soil for rainbow herbicides has been selected, according to the Guam Environmental Protection Agency. Post file photo

The Guam Environmental Protection Agency lacks the budget to proceed with herbicide testing efforts outside Andersen Air Force Base as requested by Vice Speaker Therese Terlaje in a Feb. 1 letter to agency administrator Walter Leon Guerrero.

Terlaje, in that letter, wanted to confirm if soil testing for TCDD dioxin – the toxic component of the Agent Orange herbicide – would be conducted along the fuel pipeline that runs from Sasa Valley Fuel Farm to Andersen Air Force Base.

She also suggested that soil testing for the presence of herbicides should be extended to Naval Base Guam as well as civilian areas because the pipeline runs through several villages.

Retired Master Sgt. Leroy Foster testified to spraying Agent Orange along the pipeline and other areas on Guam. He is one of many Vietnam-era veterans who testified spraying or having witnessed the spraying of herbicides on island. His claim to spraying Agent Orange on Guam led to the drafting of H.R. 809, the FOSTER Act. 

GEPA responded to Terlaje just before the end of February.

Leon Guerrero stated that, among other things, the joint sampling initiative between GEPA, the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would be limited to just Andersen and that this had been publicly known.

However, Leon Guerrero said GEPA had determined reasonable testing locations outside the air base but lacks the funding to proceed with a larger sampling effort on its own.

"This joint investigation is part of our agency's efforts to determine the likelihood of broader sampling and testing. I would like to point out that if our government wants to conduct this particular sampling effort, as an individual entity as outlined in your request, there is no budget set to proceed," Leon Guerrero wrote.

Soil testing is taking place following a January 2017 order from the governor.

GEPA spokesman Nicholas Lee Rupley reaffirmed Wednesday that testing will remain at Andersen only.

The limited range prompted criticism from some Vietnam-era veterans who say they do not trust the Department of Defense to properly conduct testing, claiming the department will lead investigators to remediated sites.

Joint Region Marianas stated in late December 2017 that soil testing would take place in early 2018. A contractor for the testing has been selected, according to Rupley.

A work plan, which details how the testing will take place, is entering its final stages. There have been no details on when the plan will be finalized.

No testing for TCDD

Regardless of when testing will occur, it will be focused on detecting the presence of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D – the two herbicide formulas that make up Agent Orange and other Rainbow Herbicides. The investigation will not be testing for TCDD, Leon Guerrero's letter stated.

The dioxin is a byproduct of the manufacturing of 2,4,5-T. Rupley said this is because dioxins like TCDD can be produced through other means and its presence does not necessarily equate the presence of Agent Orange.

The Government Accountability Office is conducting a separate investigation into the herbicide's presence on Guam. Results for the final report have been delayed until July.

Vietnam veterans and supporters rallied last week in front of the office of Del. Madeleine Bordallo in Hagåtña. They sought to promote awareness of possible Agent Orange exposure as well as to garner support for congressional measures that promise to broaden coverage for exposure.

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