US Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel J. Kritenbrink, Vietnamese Deputy Minister of National Defense Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh and other US and Vietnamese government officials joined a ceremony on January 21 to celebrate the dioxin remediation results as part of the two countries’ joint efforts to overcome war legacies.
In coordination with the Ministry of National Defense and Dong Nai officials, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has treated nearly 1,200 cubic meters of soil contaminated with dioxin at the Gate 2 Lake of the airbase. In the coming weeks after the restoration of grass and trees in the area, USAID and its partners will hand over the land back to Bien Hoa City.
Following this initial success, the Air Defense Air Force Command signed an agreement to hand over an area of 7.2 hectares at the airbase for USAID to eliminate the dioxin contamination over the next two years.
The Bien Hoa Airbase was used by the US military during the American War in Vietnam (1955-1975). The airbase is recognized as a hotspot due to high dioxin concentrations, which have remained decades after large volumes of Agent Orange, mainly compounds of a dangerous chemical contaminant called dioxin, and other herbicides were stored, handled and spilled at the airbase during the war.
According to the Ministry of National Defense, some 515,000 cubic meters of soil on an area of 52 hectares contaminated by dioxin at the airbase needs to be treated.
The major dioxin contaminated areas at the airbase include the Z1 area located in the southern area of the airbase, the southwest area and the Pacer Ivy area at the western end of the airbase. Elevated dioxin concentrations have also been found in lake sediments in the northwest and northeast areas, the Gate 2 Lake, the Bien Hung Lake and in the drainage canal west of the Pacer Ivy area.
The project to resolve dioxin contamination at the airbase began in December 2019. Cleanup work is expected to take at least 10 years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
“While the scale of this initial success may seem small compared to the overall remediation challenge ahead, this achievement is notable. The success of any long-term effort, like the 10-year project ahead of us, requires sustained commitment,” Kritenbrink said at the ceremony.
The U.S. Mission to Vietnam and the National Action Center for Chemical and Environmental Treatment also took the occasion to launch a new joint project to support people with disabilities in eight provinces severely affected by Agent Orange.
With funding of US$65 million in official development assistance from the US Government and some VND75 billion (US$3.3 million) from the Vietnamese Government’s reciprocal capital, the project is expected to benefit at least 100,000 people with disabilities and their families.