In the U.S.
Agent ORANGE Manufacturing SiteS
In addition to its tactical use during the Vietnam War, the Dioxin in Agent Orange also contaminated areas where it was manufactures, stored, shipped, tested, or disposed of in the United States and elsewhere in the world.
Transportation and Storage Sites
Herbicides were shipped to Vietnam from several U.S. ports, including Baltimore, Seattle and New Orleans, early on in the war; and from Mobile, Alabama and Outport of Gulfport, Mississippi, after 1966. Once they arrived in the Port of Saigon, they were stored at either the 20th ARVN Ordnance Depot in Saigon or the 511th ARVN Ordnance Depot at the Da Nang air base, until they were sent to their final destinations.
The chemical components of Agent Orange, the phenoxy herbicides, 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, were made by 37 U.S. chemical companies, beginning in the late 1940s. Prior to, during and after the Vietnam War, these herbicides were used in industrial agriculture domestically. They were also sprayed along railroads and power lines, and more, as well as to control undergrowth in U.S. American forests.
For the war effort the U.S. military procured over 20 million gallons of Agent Orange (roughly a fifty-fifty mixture of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T, the latter was contaminated with Dioxin primarily from nine different companies:
- Dow Chemical, in Midland MI
- Monsanto, in Nitro, WV
- Diamond Alkali/Shamrock, in Newark, NJ
- Hercules, in Jacksonville, AR
- Thompson-Hayward Chemical, in Kansas City, KS
- US Rubber Company/Uniroyal, in Elmira, Ontario
- Thomson Chemical Corporation, in St Louis, MO
- Hoffman-Taff Inc, in Verona, MO
Many of the sites where the Dioxin-contaminated 2,4,5-T was manufactured are now EPA Superfund sites in various stages of containment, clean-up and remediation. Local community groups have been battling the chemical companies, the EPA and/or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to address Dioxin contamination.
Monsanto – Nitro, WV
In March 1949, a tank processing chemical formulations, including Dioxin-contaminated 2,4,5-T, exploded at the Monsanto Chemical plant in Nitro, WV. Days after the explosion, 226 workers became ill with severe cases of chloracne, which Monsanto insisted was the only health effect of exposure to 2,4,5–T. Medical reports that were later released as part of a lawsuit against Monsanto stated that the explosion “caused a systemic intoxication in the workers involving most major organ systems.” Workers at the Monsanto plant are the first victims of 2,4,5-T which was manufactured there until 1971. In 2012, a lawsuit against Monsanto by former chemical workers and residents of Nitro, was settled for more than $90 million. The settlement will be used for clean-up, remediation and health monitoring.
Times Beach, MO
Meanwhile, the community of Times Beach, MO, was devastated when Dioxin-contaminated oil waste, from Hoffman-Taff facilities in Verona, was spread on the town’s roads. Times Beach was evacuated in 1983. The homes were bought out by the EPA and the contaminated soil was removed and incinerated. In 1997, the town was converted into the Route 66 state park.
Up until 1969, Diamond Alkali/Diamond Shamrock produced Agent Orange at its factory in Newark, NJ adjacent to the Passaic River. Testing of the site by NJ and the EPA in 1983 found high levels of TCDD on the site and in the sediment of the Passaic River and in Newark Bay. The soil in the former area of the factory was capped in 2001 to prevent further leaching of Dioxin and other chemicals into the river. Though the whole lower river system and Bay is contaminated with Dioxin and other chemicals, the highest levels of TCDD found in the river are adjacent to the Diamond Alkali factory site with 200,000 cubic yards of sediment in need of remediation. In 2012, 40,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment was dredged and taken off-site. Work is still underway to address the contamination in the full 17 mile stretch of Lower Passaic River and Newark Bay. Consumption of fish and shellfish from the river and bay are prohibited by the State of NJ.
“The dioxin was in the dirt. I think maybe that was his exposure.”
– Saginaw resident Alice Buchalter, on her husband who died from gardening, Chicago Tribune, 2009.
Midland/Saginaw, MIDow Chemical produced at their Midland, MI plant on the banks of the Tittabawasee River from the 1950s until the late 1970s. In 1978, Dow posted advisories warning that fish in the river had high levels of Dioxin. However, it was not until 2003 that the EPA, State of Michigan and Dow negotiated clean-up of the extensive Dioxin contamination in Midland, along the Tittabawasee River and in the Saginaw Bay area. Clean-up is still on-going and is focused on removing contaminated river bed sediment and river bank soils in a 21 mile stretch of the floodplain downstream from the plant. Residential properties along the floodplain that have more than 250 ppt of Dioxin in their soils will have the contaminated soil removed and replaced with clean-soil and new vegetation. In addition, Dow has been the subject of numerous lawsuits to address the contamination from their plant, including a recent case settled for $77 million for natural resource restoration of areas contaminated by the Dow plant.
By Fred Wilcox. “I died in Vietnam, but I didn’t even know it,” said a young Vietnam vet on the Today Show one morning in 1978, shocking viewers across the country.
By Jack Doyle. A comprehensive overview of the company’s dirty deeds from Agent Orange / dioxin to Greenwashing.