The US and Vietnam yesterday began cleaning up Agent Orange on part of Danang International Airport, marking the first time Washington has been involved in cleaning up the toxic chemical defoliant in Vietnam.
The US military sprayed up to 45 million liters of the defoliant onto Vietnam’s jungles over a 10-year period during the Vietnam War, and the question of compensation for the subsequent health problems is a major post-war issue.
Respiratory cancer and birth defects among both Vietnamese and US veterans have been linked to exposure to Agent Orange.
“We are both moving earth and taking the first steps to bury the legacies of our past,” US Ambassador to Vietnam David Shear said at a ceremony at Danang airport yesterday.
“I look forward to even more successes to follow,” he said.
The US government is providing US$41 million to the project, which will reduce the contamination level in 73,000m3 of soil by late 2016, Nhan Dan daily said.
The contaminated soil and sediment will be excavated and heated in a pile structure to a high temperature to destroy the chemical, the US embassy said in a statement yesterday.
Vietnam’s defense ministry has cleared unexploded ordinance from the airport site, to allow the cleanup and will build a power station to serve the project, Shear said.
Danang in Vietnam’s central region is a popular tourist destination. During the Vietnam War, that ended in 1975, the beach city was used as a recreational spot for US soldiers.
Agent Orange was stored at Danang airbase and sprayed from US warplanes to expose northern communist troops and destroy their supplies in jungles along the border with Laos.