The U.S. military command in South Korea says it is investigating veterans' claims that they buried barrels of the toxic herbicide Agent Orange at a U.S. facility there in the late 1970s.
Arizona resident Steve House told CNN affiliate KPHO in Phoenix that in 1978, he was ordered to dig a long trench for "disposal" at Camp Carroll, where he was stationed as an Army heavy equipment operator.
He wasn't told what would be buried in the trench, but he says he saw it.
"Fifty-five-gallon drums with bright yellow, some of them bright orange, writing on them," House told KPHO. "And some of the cans said Province of Vietnam, Compound Orange."
The U.S. military sprayed Agent Orange from planes onto jungles in Vietnam to kill vegetation in an effort to expose guerrilla fighters. Exposure to the chemical has been blamed for a wide variety of ailments, including certain forms of cancer and nerve disorders. It also has been linked to birth defects, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The military has always said that all leftover Agent Orange was incinerated at sea, but it is investigating nonetheless.
House's story was supported by Robert Travis, who served with him and now lives in West Virginia, according to the station.
"There was approximately 250 drums, all OD (olive drab) green," Travis told KPHO. "On the barrels it said, 'Chemicals type Agent Orange.' It had a stripe around the barrel dated 1967 for the Republic of Vietnam."
Travis recalled wheeling the barrels out of a warehouse at Camp Carroll, which GlobalSecurity.org says is home to the U.S. Army Material Support Center-Korea.¬† The camp is about 20 miles north of the major South Korean city of Daegu.
"This stuff was just seeping through the barrels," Travis said. "There was a smell ... I couldn't even describe it ... just sickly sweet."
Another former Camp Carroll soldier, Richard Cramer of Decatur, Illinois, told KPHO the same story. All three men report lingering medical problems they attribute to exposure to the chemical.
"I am aware of and concerned with news reports alleging burial of Agent Orange at Camp Carroll," Gen. Walter L. Sharp, commander of United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea, said in a news release. "Both Americans and Koreans live and work in and around Camp Carroll, and I share the concerns of the government of the Republic of Korea and the Korean people living near the installation. If any substances of concern are found, we will dispose of them properly."
South Korea's Environment Ministry has asked the Pentagon to verify the men's claims, a spokesman told Stars and Stripes. South Korean analysts started examining the Camp Carroll area on Friday and will soon begin collecting soil and water samples, the spokesman said.
House told KPHO he decided to come forward now because he thinks he may die soon.
"If I'm going to check out, I want to do it with a clean slate," he said.