Agent Orange Comes Home to Roost

Long term birth defects thought to be caused by exposure to Agent Orange

by Ed Mattson

Major Tự Đức Phang was exposed to dioxin-contaminated Agent Orange during and since the Vietnam War


Background research with help from Harold Saive – Veterans For Peace Chapter 136

Many know me as a writer and  a volunteer with the National Guard Bureau of International Affairs State Partnership Program. I am not a “dupe” of Big Government, though politically I am probably to the right of Atilla the Hun. I believe all governments are self-serving and try to rule well beyond their ability and the reason they were elected to office. I also believe governments in general, never intend to have what they legislate turn out all wrong, but it happens far more often than most of us would like.

We are all aware of the asbestos debacle. This was a product that was the best known fire protection/insulation material of its day and was mandated into nearly every building specification, military war ship, and countless other programs and projects to protect against fire. Brake linings of cars and trucks, and thousands of uses turned into nightmares for those who were exposed. The repercussions rocked the manufacturing world as Johns-Manville, the leading manufacturer of asbestos was almost “run-out-of-town-on-a-rail” from class action lawsuits, and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1982. It emerged from bankruptcy in 1988, but was permanently tarnish with creating the product that caused most of the lung related disease, including mesothelioma, many are afflicted with today. Are they really the bad guy here or were they pawns in meeting untested government mandates and specifications? You decide.

The case against Agent Orange, a defoliant manufactured by Dow Chemical and Monsanto, has many similar characteristics for the havoc it has reigned down on the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of military and civilian personnel who were exposed to it in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam era. It was sprayed all over Vietnam, Cambodia, and Eastern Laos, in more than 6500 aerial missions at concentrations 13 times more potent than recommendations for domestic use by the FDA. In some areas TCDD concentrations in soil and water were hundreds of times greater than the levels considered “safe” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Is this the fault of the chemical or the US government and military hierarchy? I’ll let you decide, but suffice it to say there is certainly enough blame to go around, but there is a patent obligation to care for everyone who is a victim, with never-ending health problems linked to DNA replication that can cause cancer, neurological diseases, birth defects, autism, learning disabilities and more.

This brings us around to today’s seemingly unending problems with Agent Orange about which I have been writing. Cabot-Koppers, a manufacturing facility which produces carbon blacks used as a pigment, UV stabilizing and conductive agent, located in the city of Gainesville, FL, is in the middle of the target these days as the battle over Agent Orange continues here at home. In the post-Vietnam War years of the 1970’s witnesses sighted barrels of herbicides (presumed to be military grade Agent Orange) being secretly buried on the Cabot-Koppers’property which was later designated by the EPA as a Superfund site in 1983.

When the EPA designated Cabot-Koppers as a Superfund site, it was assumed that on-site dioxins were generated from wood treatment chemicals. In 1991 Cabot Carbon signed a Consent Decree to perform the cleanup, and pay past and future oversight costs on the former Cabot plant property. At the time in 1991 when Cabot signed the Consent Decree, Koppers Industries (known as Beazer East), was not part of the decree to perform any work, but agreed to assist site clean-up activities under an Unilateral Administrative Order (UAO). They also agreed to pay EPA’s past response and future oversight costs associated with their site activities. EPA and Beazer East also discussed a Consent Decree that will encompass future work and costs.

In February 2011, the Google Earth’s Worldview satellite captured a high resolution image that revealed over 20 drums gathered on the site and in late 2010, witnesses disclosed that TETRA TECH, a company contracted for site clean-up, BEAZER EAST (Koppers), was seen excavating barrels from under the ground on the northern section of the Superfund site. In an apparent attempt to hide these activities witnesses said TETRA TECH used earthen burms and tarps to hide their diggings from enquiring eyes and camera lenses during the excavations. These claims were denied. In an inspection following this event, there was an official finding that, “No drums were found”. This kind of sounds like a cover-up to me.

In an associated event in early 2011, Cabot Carbon removed 116 tons of contaminated sediments from Hogtown and Springstead Creeks that were impacted by tar releases from the former Cabot Carbon operations, but the story is not over yet. A complete timeline of events including the witness’ testimony show the intent to hide any finding of Agent Orange because the drums were removed before the “official” search for Agent Orange was done by GEO-HYDRO, in April and May of 2011, a completely different company. The president of Protect Gainesville Citizens, Kim Popejoy, was apparently taking the word of local officials that the Beazer sponsored “search” for buried drums by GEO HYDRO, a company now representing GRU (Gainesville Regional Utilities), was diligent when they issued their findings that no drums were found.

Newly revealed contamination of a known 2 mile radius that Agent Orange may have leaked to the surface from the drums has never been acknowledged by any local, State or Federal agency. Dioxins from two sources, wood treatment and Agent Orange, could now make the Department of Defense a new responsible party with Beazer for complete Superfund clean-up to return the property to 100% marketable parity for future development.

Considering a recent Biomass Plant contract scandal involving the City and GRU, it’s reasonable to suspect a cover-up of cover-ups is currently underway as political damage control involving the events at the Koppers EPA Superfund site. Furthermore, there is no reason the character or testimony of witnesses should be impugned on the basis that their story contradicts official accounts – especially when it’s been the decades-long history of local officials to cover-up the Koppers pollution in the first place. Satellite photos from January 12, 2011 revealing an aggressive disturbance of soils in a location near the site where witnesses said the excavations took place. Questions about this activity must be fully explained by local, State, Federal and University of Florida officials in a Federal Court of Law.


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Following his service in the Marine Corps Ed Mattson built a diverse career in business in both sales/marketing and management. He is a medical research specialist and published author. His latest book is Down on Main Street: Searching for American Exceptionalism Ed is currently Development Director of the National Guard Bureau of International Affairs-State Partnership Program, Fundraising Coordinator for the Warrior2Citizen Project, and Managing Partner of Center-Point Consultants in North Carolina. Mr. Mattson is a noted speaker and has addressed more than 3000 audiences in 42 states and 5 foreign countries. He has been awarded the Order of the Sword by American Cancer Society, is a Rotarian Paul Harris Fellow and appeared on more than 15 radio and television talk-shows.