Vietnam War airbase removed from dioxin hotspot list

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Binh Dinh Province's Phu Cat Military Airport was removed from the list of dioxin/Agent Orange hotspots in Vietnam on Saturday.

More than 7,000 cubic meters of dioxin-contaminated soil found at the central airport with concentrations higher than 1,000 parts per trillion have been safely contained in a landfill. The dioxin was contained in a defoliant sprayed by the US Army during the Vietnam War.  

"This Phu Cat landfill was constructed in full compliance with national regulations and met international standards. The landfill stops spreading of the dioxin to the environment and eliminates exposure of the local population," the United Nations Development Program Vietnam said in a statement.

The landfill was part of a US$5 million UNDP and GEF (Global Environment Facility) project "Environmental Remediation of Dioxin Contaminated Hotspots in Vietnam", launched in July, 2010 and implemented by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources' Office of National Steering Committee on Overcoming of the Consequences of Toxic Chemicals used by US during the war in Vietnam (Office 33).

Phu Cat was one of three identified dioxin hotspots, together with Da Nang and Bien Hoa airports. These airbases were highly contaminated because the toxic defoliant was stored or handled there during the war.

"The levels of dioxin concentration in these hotspots are as high as 365,000 parts per trillion (ppt) of international toxicity equivalents (I-TEQ). This is hundred of times the required clean-up level by national and international standards," according to a UNDP report.

"Dioxin is no longer leaking from the site and the dioxin will not have an impact on the environment and people living in the surrounding area," the Quan Doi Nhan Dan (People's Army) newspaper quoted Le Ke Son, director of Office 33', as saying.


US, Vietnam take "˜first step to bury past legacies'

"Together with the United States, UNDP and other partners, we will continue to remediate dioxin contamination in Bien Hoa and Da Nang airports," he said.

The US Army sprayed some 80 million liters of Agent Orange containing 366 kilograms of the highly toxic dioxin over 30,000 square miles of southern Vietnam between 1961 and 1971.

Between 2.1 to 4.8 million Vietnamese citizens were directly exposed to Agent Orange and other chemicals that have been linked to cancers, birth defects and other chronic diseases during the Vietnam War that ended in April 1975.

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