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

Joint Region Marianas will collect soil samples in early 2018 as part of efforts to investigate claims that Agent Orange was used on island. 

These efforts are being held in conjunction with the Guam and U.S. Environmental Protection Agencies. Officials with the Government Accountability Office were on island last week to speak with veterans and EPA officials regarding the alleged use of the herbicide on island. 

GAO findings are expected to be reported out by May 2018. 

Guam EPA has been gathering information from Vietnam veterans about where Agent Orange might have been used in order to pinpoint sampling sites. The GAO last week discussed the claims with local officials, according to Guam EPA spokesman Nicholas Lee Rupley. 

"They had questions about the technical aspects of what would take place in the sampling and analysis," Rupley said. 

There are certain time frames to follow once the sampling takes place. A tentative timeline was provided by Joint Region Public Affairs Officer Lt. Ian McConnaughey.

Sampling will take about 14 days. Analysis and data validation will take about 60 days from sampling completion. A draft summary report will be produced within 30 days after analysis is complete. After which, stakeholders will be able to review the data before a final report is developed. 

A contractor has not yet been hired to perform the data analysis, however. 

"The U.S. Department of Defense takes allegations of the use of Agent Orange very seriously and keeps historical records of all its testing and storage," McConnaughey stated.

"None of the information indicates its storage or use on Guam, however, Joint Region Marianas is working with the Guam Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate any claims of its use on the island."

Recent claims by Vietnam War veterans about the use of Agent Orange on Guam led to congressional action that mandated the GAO investigation. 

The joint efforts between Guam EPA, USEPA and Joint Region are to investigate the use of tactical herbicides – the so-called "rainbow herbicides" because of their designation by color. 

Agent Purple was the progenitor of Agent Orange. Similar in composition to its more infamous cousin, the chemical was stored on Guam in the 1950s in preparation for use in the Korean War.

According to "The History, Use, Disposition and Environmental Fate of Agent Orange," at the close of the Korean War, much of the Agent Purple stock on Guam was disposed. 

Rupley said the increased focus on Agent Orange is because of its highly toxic carcinogens.

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