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A F Tests Sprayed Agent Orange in N W Fl, 1962-'70

Added: Saturday, November 17th 2007 at 10:55am by dutchuncle
Related Tags: military, career, jobs

Here's the article I freaked out over as I realized my Boy Scouts may have been exposed to Agent Orange and dioxin testing  every time we camped out at Eglin AFB in the FL panhandle northeast of Ft Walton Beach, Niceville and Hurlburt Field.  The Eglin Reservation is one of the largest Federal US facilities in the world because it includes many large open ranges where large weapons systems are tested -- part of it even is down in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast about 25 miles!

This is a long article but you don't have to read much of it to get the idea.  The detail is only useful to those of us who need to know exactly where the spraying was to see if we are/were at risk and try to do something about it.  If anyone knows a point of contact for dioxin or Agent Orange testing in humans, please let me know ASAP!

Subj:[Fwd: VVA: FW: Air Force Admits Agent Orange Spraying In Florida In 1962-70] 
Date:11/17/2007 5:40:21 A.M. Eastern Standard Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)

-------- Original Message --------
Subject:VVA: FW: Air Force Admits Agent Orange Spraying In Florida In 1962-70
Date:Fri, 16 Nov 2007 20:09:45 -0500
To:VVA-Talklist <vva@vva2.talklist.com>

-----Original Message-----From: VeteranIssues@yahoogroups.com[mailto:VeteranIssues@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Colonel DanSent: Friday, November 16, 2007 13:55Subject: [VeteranIssues] Air Force Admits Agent Orange Spraying InFlorida In 1962-70Air Force Admits Agent Orange Spraying In Florida In 1962-70By Barbara T. Dreyfuss<http://www.vva.org/veteran/1007/ao_spraying.html> In the 1960s, Ernie Rivers taught Navy flight students at the PensacolaNaval Air Station how to live off the land if their plane was downed. Hewas the officer in charge of the survival unit, overseeing 30 to 35instructors, who taught more than 100 men a week how to survive withonly a compass, map, and a hunting knife. Every week groups of studentswould camp for three days, using different sites on Eglin Air Force BaseReservation in Florida.When the winds and clouds were right, Rivers and his men would watchplanes pass overhead, clouds of spray coming from them. Several times heand his men were sprayed. "I'd say, 'At least we don't have to use bugrepellant,'" he noted, laughing, during an interview. That was a bigplus, they thought, for them as well as Army Rangers who were alsotraining out in the bayous of the Florida panhandle, where mosquitoesand other bugs could make life miserable.Rivers and the students thought they were watching the Air Force sprayDDT to kill mosquitoes. What was actually being sprayed, he said, wasAgent Orange. Documents show that gallons of the defoliants AgentOrange, Agent Purple, and Agent White were sprayed at Eglin. In fact,according to officials overseeing the program, the Air Force sprayed atest area on the base with more dioxin than any similar area in Vietnam.The fact that Agent Orange was sprayed in Florida for eight years wasnot widely known then or even today. Only in the last several years hasthe documentation on the spraying been made publicly available by AlvinYoung, an Air Force scientist for more than 15 years at Eglin. Youngoversaw a huge research project evaluating how massive spraying of AgentOrange at the Florida air force base affected its soil, water, plants,fish, and animals.In Vietnam during the war, a typical mission disseminated 14.8 kg ofAgent Orange per hectare, according to Young. Most of the Agent Orangein Vietnam was intercepted by forest canopy, and some of it wasdestroyed by the sunlight. But at Eglin, where the spray rate was 876 kgper hectare, the trees and bushes already had been removed from thespray area. Young recently wrote that each hectare at Eglin received atleast 1,300 times more dioxin than a hectare sprayed in Vietnam. Thespraying went on from 1962 to 1970. The test area was three kilometerssquare.Eglin was one of several key military installations involved withOperation Ranch Hand and posters plastering its buildings made thatclear. Pictures of Smokey the Bear, the unofficial Operation Ranch Handmascot, proclaimed, "Only you can prevent a forest." Eglin hadresponsibility for training the aircrews, fitting aircraft with sprayequipment, and testing the spray systems and spray patterns.Spray systems were tested in an area divided into four grids. From June1962 through June 1970 fixed-wing airplanes, helicopters or jet aircraftsprayed massive amounts of defoliants on the area. During that time75,000 liters of Agent Orange, 61,200 liters of Agent Purple, 15,800liters of Agent White, and 16,600 liters of Agent Blue rained onto thebase.There were 155,000 kg sprayed of the active ingredients in theherbicides. The Air Force estimated that the amount of dioxin sprayedwas between 5.6 and eight pounds, an enormous amount since it is one ofthe more toxic chemicals, even in minute amounts. Because of itstoxicity, dioxin is generally measured in parts per trillion.In the late 1960s, Air Force officials became concerned about theramifications of spraying dioxin in massive amounts stateside. "Afterrepetitive applications, personnel involved with the test programexpressed concern about potential ecological and environmental hazardsthat might be associated with continuance of these test programs," Youngwrote later in an Air Force technical report.Officials overseeing the test program knew how toxic Agent Orange wasbut seemed unconcerned, so long as it was used in Vietnam. James Clary,who worked at Eglin and helped design the spray system for herbicides,wrote in a 1988 letter to then-Sen. Tom Daschle: "When we [militaryscientists] initiated the herbicide program in the 1960s, we were awareof the potential for damage due to dioxin contamination in theherbicide. We were even aware that the 'military' formulation had ahigher dioxin concentration than the 'civilian' version due to the lowercost and speed of manufacture. However, because the material was to beused on the 'enemy,' none of us were overly concerned."But when it started to be sprayed in enormous quantities on an Americanbase, some Air Force officials became concerned and wanted to study theimpact of the spraying. Their concern doesn't seem to have beenmotivated only by worry about ecological and public health issues.In fact, it seems to have been in part triggered by worry that thegovernment could be liable for damages caused by the spraying. InternalAir Force memos show that the government was being sued by farmers whobelieved their crops had been decimated by the spraying. The militarywas interested in disproving the farmers' claims, by studying if AgentOrange traveled in the air when sprayed and how it affected area plantsand animals.A memo from an Air Force chemical engineer in June 1968 explained thatpersonnel were investigating a neutron activation tracer to see if itcould determine whether defoliants traveled when sprayed and, if so,where they went. "The Air Force is vitally concerned with potentialhazards to local flora, fauna, and marine life, both on and off theEglin Reservation that might be created by defoliant testing," he wrote."This concern is primarily the result of pending legal action againstthe government by cotton farmers of a surrounding county claiming damageto their cotton fields due to previous defoliant testing at Eglin."To study the ramifications of the spraying, the Air Force in 1968created a research unit at Eglin of more than a dozen Air Universitygraduates with doctorates in such areas as chemistry, microbiology,plant science, and zoology. They worked for at least four years, and sixof the scientists, including Alvin Young who became lead investigator,stayed at Eglin for the entire 15 years of the study.In what would be considered a conflict of interest today, they wereassisted by contractors from Dow Chemical Company, one of themanufacturers of the herbicides. Dow, which was ultimately sued overAgent Orange, had a significant stake in whether or not the chemicalswere found to cause serious harm to plants, animals, or people. A U.S.Air Force Academy research director asked that scientists be broughtfrom Dow, claiming they were the "best qualified to recognize and accessthe ecological effects caused by these materials."The first study of the impact of Agent Orange at Eglin began in latesummer of 1969, when six five-foot cores of dirt were randomly takenfrom the test area. They indicated "significant concentrations ofherbicides" and scientists found toxins leaching up to three feet intothe soil," Young wrote. In 1974, "relatively high" levels of dioxin,1,500 parts per trillion, were found in the test area.An ecological survey, conducted from 1973 to 1978, found dioxin in nineanimal species on the reservation, including mice, rats, three types ofbirds, and three types of fish. Spiders, crickets, and grubs also testedpositive. In the fifteen years of study at Eglin, dioxin was found inabout one-third of the different species studied. The levels of thetoxin were about the same as that found at the time in the soil.In 1984, fourteen years after Agent Orange was last sprayed at Eglin,Young's team concluded that about one percent of the dioxin remained onthe test area. While some of it was destroyed by sunlight, Youngacknowledged that "wind and water erosion" also led to its disappearancefrom the site, but he did not study where it might have traveled to inthe surrounding area.The spray area was not the only place at Eglin affected by theherbicides. There were storage, disposal, and loading sites as well, andthe Air Force concluded in 1992 there were nine locations associatedwith Agent Orange at the base, in addition to the spray areas. Theseincluded the Mullet Creek Drum Disposal Site, the Hardstand 7 disposalarea, Receiver Landfill, Upper Memorial Lake, three sites at LowerMemorial Lake and Field No. 2 Drum Disposal, and Field No. 2 HelicopterLoading Area.Mullet Creek Drum Disposal Site had more than 660 drums in it when theAir Force removed them in 1988. And 120 cubic yards of debris also weretaken out.Another disposal site, Upper Memorial Lake Landfill, which is about halfa mile from the Eglin Main Base residential area next to Upper MemorialLake, and a quarter mile south of the runways, had an estimated 150drums used for herbicides buried there.On the west side of the north-south runway was another disposal site,Hardstand 7, which also was a 40-meter circular concrete and asphaltaircraft parking and loading area. It included a 15-foot-deep pit nearthe center of the concrete pad where herbicide drums were stored andtransferred to aircraft. In 1980, dioxin-contaminated soil was removedfrom Hardstand 7 and temporarily stored at the Receiver Area Landfill,and then was spread over the spray area. At least as late as 1992, theAir Force found contamination at the Upper Memorial Lake Landfill and atthe Hardstand 7 site.An additional 260 feet of contaminated soil also was stored, briefly, atHardfill 01. And there was an alternate Agent Orange loading area atHardstand 8. In addition, helicopters were loaded with herbicides atField No. 2.Eglin Air Force Base is huge and largely undeveloped, and the test andstorage areas are in a rural area in the southeast section of thereservation, but they don't exist in a vacuum. Creeks flow through thearea, ponds are nearby, residential areas abut some of the sites. Thearea is about three miles north of Choctawhatchee Bay and eight mileseast of Niceville, Florida.Eglin Main Base employs about 15,000 workers today and the airfield anadditional 6,000. Much of the base is open to the general public forrecreation. Ponds near the disposal and spray areas drain into creeksthat flow into nearby bayous. Mullet, Trout, and Basin Creek receiverunoff surface water from the test area and disposal sites and draininto Choctawhatchee Bay.For many years, the Air Force did little to contain wind and watererosion of the contaminated sites. A 1981 memo advised Eglin'scommanding general that he only had to follow "minimal recommendations"to prevent erosion, even in the southern half of the spray areas, whichwas particularly susceptible to erosion. He was advised mainly to limitoff-road vehicles."I feel that when these minimal recommendations are placed into effect,the Air Force will have made a significant and prudent move towardpreventing the unwanted future movement of TCCD-contaminated soil,particularly the movement toward Choctawhatchee Bay," Major General JohnOrd, then commander of the Air Force Systems Command's Aerospace MedicalDivision at Brooks Air Force Base, wrote.But in fact, dioxin traveled into ponds and streams, was carried by thewind, was absorbed by fish, and found its way into areas used forrecreational fishing and swimming. In 1978, Young's group studied dioxinlevels at Hardstand 7 and found concentrations as high as 275 parts perbillion and contamination up to a third of that down into the dirt onemeter deep. They found it had migrated as far downstream as Tom's Pond,concluding that much of the contamination occurred before a dike wasbuilt. Still, it took until 1985 for the site to be closed off with achain-link fence and locked gates, and signs posted to preventtrespassing and fishing.And it took four more years after the Air Force's 1992 assessment thatthere was still contamination at the site for efforts at embankmentstabilization, drum excavation, and drain pit excavation. In 2001, theAir Force installed three erosion control structures to reduce erosionaround the hardstand and to minimize storm water run-off into HardstandPond. In addition, an asphalt cap was installed over contaminated areasof Handstand 7, and the existing storm water pipe was checked forblockage.Similarly, at Upper Memorial Lake Landfill, soil samples taken in 1992indicated trace levels of dioxin. The next year Eglin officialscollected eight soil samples at the lake itself and found evidence ofdioxin in it, as well as in fish caught there. But it was not until 1998that erosion control and other actions were taken.Because water from the spray areas and drum disposal site flows intoMullet, Trout, and Basin Creeks, which flow into Choctawhatchee Bay, theAir Force tested for dioxins, furans, and other contaminants in thecreeks in the 1990s and found them in the surface water, sediment, andfish.By 1998 enough concern had been raised about the health impact of theAgent Orange spraying and disposal sites that the Agency for ToxicSubstances and Disease Registry agreed to do a public-health assessmentof Eglin Air Force Base. They concluded, in a report released in 2003,that although there were contaminated land and water areas in the Eglinspray areas, the amount of contamination was very low and the use of theareas by the public was so low, there was little danger posed to thepublic.But, what the study didn't assess was the health risk to the Air Forcepersonnel who flew the planes or loaded the drums onto them, or storedthem at the disposal site, or later removed them. And it didn't look atwhether any of Ernie Rivers' flight students or the Army Rangers, whowere living off the land, drinking its rivers, and sleeping on earthdampened by Agent Orange were put at risk.


User Comments

It amazes me how some people view life, other than their own, as completely expendable! How can these people sleep at night?
Too many people involved in scientific and experimental research are unaware that the ethical principles which oversee scientists also apply to them even though they are not scientists, themselves. I am speaking especially about leaders & managers whose professional & personal codes of conduct SHOULD include those same ethical principles! The only way to do it is to impose LEGAL RESPONSIBILITY through legislative or executive action and hold the same leaders/managers accountable through civil and criminal cases before the law![OHMY] Thanks for your concern![THUMBUP]
Wow. It baffles me that we play the high and mighty with WMDs but then look at our own history? Shameful at best.[THUMBDOWN]

Based on the article (and don't know if everything that has ben released is true), it appears that the concentration levels are so low that the risk is insignificant. I hope for your sake that is true. [HEART]
Thanks, Laura! I don't fault the military crew members flying the airplanes doing the spraying--they were just following orders & probably had no idea of the experimental design that the civilian scientists developed in laboratories & office desks indoors. Many people just think of Eglin as a giant test range to evaluate aircraft weapons without realizing there is extensive human activity all over the "ranges." Boy Scout camping, Ranger & survival training, recreational hunting & fishing, parachutist competition & practice, etc.[HEART]
here in australia a lot of vietnam vets are being compensated for being exposed to agent orange --thier health has suffered badly in a lot of ways , another botch up job like the atomic bomb they set off here at Woomera, the amount of cancer in the service personel present has been staggering [MAD][SAD][THUMBUP]

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