Vietnam today started the first phase of a joint plan with former enemy the United States to clean up environmental damage leftover from the chemical defoliant Agent Orange, a lasting legacy from the Vietnam War. Vietnam's Ministry of Defense will begin sweeping areas around the Danang airport, a former US military base in central Vietnam where the herbicide was stored, for unexploded ordnance. The US Agency for International Development will then assist in removing dioxin from soil and sediment at the site. It marks the first time the two sides will work together on the ground to clean up contamination.
The $32 million project will remove dioxin from 71 acres of land at the Danang site, where a 2009 study found chemical levels that were 300 to 400 times higher than international limits. Two other former US air bases also have been identified as hotspots where the defoliant was mixed, stored, and loaded onto planes during the war, allowing spilled dioxin to seep into the soil and water systems. (Click to read about the US vets who remember using Agent Orange.)