Vietnam to try safer way to clean up Agent Orange hotspots

By Phuong Nguyen   September 5, 2018 | 04:00 am PT
Vietnam to try safer way to clean up Agent Orange hotspots
Shovel trucks clear land at Bien Hoa airport before dioxin decontamination work begins. Photo by VnExpress/Phuoc Tuan
A new method will filter, wash and rinse contaminated soil at the Bien Hoa Airport to sponge dioxin out.

Dioxin, the toxic ingredient in the Agent Orange defoliant sprayed by the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, will float up and latch on to sponges after the contaminated soil filtered by the size of its particles, washed and rinsed.

The application of this new method was announced in a memorandum signed by the Ministry of Defense and Tokyo-based general contractor Shimizu Corporation on Tuesday.

It said that Shimizu Corp will finish building a decontamination factory at the Bien Hoa Airport in southern Dong Nai Province by December this year and begin operations next January.

The factory will have a maximum decontamination capacity being 40 tons of soil per hour.

It is claimed that the new method can remove over 90 percent of dioxin present in the contaminated soil, and that 70 percent of it can be reused normally.

Previously, the dioxin was removed from the soil through a heating method that was too costly and needed to meet stringent emission management requirements.

Applying the new method along with the old can cut decontamination costs by half and is less harmful to the environment, officials said.

Vietnam currently has 28 dioxin hotspots, including airports in several cities and provinces like central city of Da Nang that were heavily used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War.

Of these, the Bien Hoa Airport is considered the worst, with the total mass of contaminated soil reaching 850,000 tons.

The Vietnamese government hopes to complete dioxin decontamination of the country’s soil by 2030.

Dioxins and dioxin-like compounds (DLCs) are highly toxic organic pollutants in Agent Orange, which was sprayed by the U.S. military’s “Operation Ranch Hand” from 1961 to 1971. Some 80 million liters of Agent Orange are said to have been sprayed over 78,000 square kilometers (30,000 square miles) of Vietnamese territory.

The chemical, which stays in the soil and at the bottom of lakes and rivers for generations, was later found to be capable of damaging genes, which causes deformities in the offspring of exposed individuals.

The Vietnam Red Cross says that between 2.1 to 4.8 million Vietnamese were directly exposed to Agent Orange and other chemicals that have been linked to cancers, birth defects and other chronic diseases occurring through several generations.

go to top