by Hannah Allen
Perhaps it is the influence of inaccurate and exaggerated Hollywood war-movies, but for the nearly two decades that I have lived in this world, I believed, with reasonable certainty, that the chemical herbicide known as “Agent Orange” was actually a fluorescent orange color. Upon attending the Naval Restoration Advisory Board Meeting at the Isaiah Fredericks Center in Gulfport, I was quickly remedied of this assumption (the name is derived from the orange stripes that were on the canisters).
As I watched the public hearing discussing the presence of Agent Orange remnants on the Gulf Coast, I realized how limited my knowledge is about herbicide that continues to affect people to this day.
Comprised of the chemical compound dioxin, Agent Orange gained notoriety in the Vietnam War where it was used to defoliate the leafy area where enemy soldiers were concealed.
During the war, the herbicide was housed in 55-gallon drums at various locations throughout the country, so that it can be readily distributed if needed. One of these housing locations was on a 30-acre plot located in Gulfport.
In the years following the use of Agent Orange, the true, detrimental effects of the herbicide became known and the substance was subsequently banned. While the remaining herbicide was incinerated at sea, it did not come before some of the liquid omit “had” leaked into the ground and subsequent water areas.
Rigorous sampling began in the late 1970s to determine if there were any areas that were affected by Dioxin. Any soil or sediment that was found to contain elevated Dioxin levels, were quickly reduced to ash or were stabilized with the use of Portland cement. In 2002, after comments from citizens, the Restoration Advisory Board furthered their sampling area, testing north and south of the base.
Though this process was halted by Katrina in 2005, a report released later that year showed that the dioxins in the soil and sediment did not have negative consequences on the surrounding area and did pose a public health threat to the community.
Testing continues in order to ensure that levels of dioxin continued to remain stable.