US to double funding of dioxin clearance project in Vietnam

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The tank being built to heat dioxin-contaminated soil in Da Nang, under a project conducted in conjunction with USAID. Photo by Vu Phuong Thao

The US Agency for International Development on Wednesday announced its intention to double its funding of a dioxin clearance project in central Vietnam, bringing its total investment to US$84 million.

Joakim Parker, director of the agency, said at a conference with the Vietnamese military on Wednesday that the project requires many stages of environmental assessment.

The project, the first of its kind in the country, was launched in June 2011 at the Da Nang airport, which served as a US arsenal during the Vietnam War, and is expected to be completed in 2016.

It seeks to decontaminate around 73,000 cubic meters of soil and sediment using thermal desorption technology.

Officials at the conference said the project is on schedule, including the ongoing construction of a 58,800 cubic-meter tank that will be used to store the soil and sediment at a temperature of 335 degrees Celsius for between three to five months.

The heat is expected to breakdown the dioxin molecules into water, carbon dioxide and chlorine.

The tank's construction is nearly complete, officials said, and an area has also been cleared to gather the contaminated soil and sediment. The first 3,200 cubic meters have been dug up and brought there, and are now being dried out to reduce the amount water that will enter the tank.

Vietnamese government contributed VND35 billion ($1.67 million) to the project. The country has been spending $6.25 million on dioxin clearance, supporting dioxin victims to the tune of $50 million annually.

The US Army sprayed 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.

Experts have identified at least 28 dioxin-contaminated hotspots within the country.

US officials said at a conference in Hanoi last September that USAID would provide $9 million over the next three years to pilot public health projects aiming to prevent diseases and disabilities among the local population, and also to provide vocational training to disabled people and dioxin victims in Vietnam.

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