Part of former US airbase in Vietnam clean of dioxin

By Phuoc Tuan   March 7, 2023 | 02:36 am PT
Part of former US airbase in Vietnam clean of dioxin
A person performs dioxin removal at the Bien Hoa Airport in Dong Nai, January 2023. Photo courtesy of USAID
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on Tuesday handed over 30,000 m2 of clean land at Bien Hoa Airport to the defense ministry following dioxin contamination removal.

The land area, located to the southwest of the airport in the southern Dong Nai Province, will eventually be turned into a park.

The Bien Hoa Airport was a headquarters for the U.S. army during the war, used to store herbicides. From 1969 to March 1970, there have been four chemical leaks, resulting in 27,500 liters of chemicals being leaked from tanks.

Experts said the airport area is the most heavily dioxin-contaminated region in the world. A dioxin removal project for the airport is expected to be completed in 10 years, with the first phase of the project, where 150,000 m3 worth of soil would be collected until 2025, estimated to cost $390 million.

Back in 2021, 5,300 m2 of land at a lake outside the airport have also had dioxin removed and handed over to authorities.

Hoang Xuan Chien, Deputy Minister of the National Defense, said the dioxin removal project at the airport is the result of cooperation between the U.S. and Vietnam governments in resolving war consequences.

Also on Tuesday, Chien and USAID administrator Samantha Power announced a new contract worth $73 million for the treatment and cleansing of soil at the Bien Hoa Airport.

Under the contract, USAID will begin a cleanup project for 100,000 m3 of dioxin-contaminated earth and soil at the airport.

Between 1961 and 1971, the U.S. military sprayed some 80 million liters of Agent Orange, a compound of dioxins and dioxin-like mixtures, over 78,000 square kilometers (30,000 square miles) in southern Vietnam.

Dioxin stays in the soil and at the bottom of bodies of water for generations, entering the food chain through meat, fish and other animals. It has been found at alarmingly high levels in human breast milk.

Between 2.1 to 4.8 million Vietnamese were directly exposed to Agent Orange and other chemicals before the war ended in April 1975. These chemicals have been linked to cancers, birth defects and many chronic diseases.

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