No signs of toxic waste found at old U.S. camp

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No signs of toxic waste found at old U.S. camp

The Ministry of National Defense said yesterday that its recent investigation did not find any signs of hazardous pollution at a former U.S. military base west of Seoul, casting doubts over claims that toxic materials had been dumped there decades ago.

The ministry said a joint investigation of Camp Mercer, in Bucheon, yielded no signs of toxic defoliant. Only “trace amounts” of carcinogenic dioxin were found in soil samples, and none was detected from groundwater samples, the ministry added.

The joint inspection team was made up of military and government officials plus civilian experts.

“We analyzed 20 soil samples from 14 spots in and around the base,” the ministry said. “And none of them exceeded pollution standards that apply to military facilities.”

The ministry said a miniscule amount of trichloroethylene (TCE), a solvent known to cause cancer, was detected in groundwater samples.

“In conclusion, there is insufficient scientific evidence to determine that there has been any pollution caused by burial of chemicals or defoliant,” the statement said.

The ministry launched the investigation on May 31 following claims by a former U.S. soldier that large amounts of chemicals were buried at Camp Mercer between 1963 and 1964. Inspectors also used a ground-penetrating radar to determine what materials, if any, had been buried.

Last month, a joint South Korea-U.S. investigation team said it had failed to detect any evidence of defoliant buried at Camp Carroll, about 186 miles southeast of Seoul. U.S. veterans who served there said that they dumped containers of Agent Orange in the 1970s.

The U.S. military has conceded the burial took place but said that the waste was removed in the late 1970s and shipped out of the country.

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