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(LEAD) Traces of dioxin found in streams near Camp Carroll: official

All Headlines 11:59 June 16, 2011

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with announcement of joint probe results)

SEOUL, June 16 (Yonhap) -- Tiny amounts of dioxin were found in stream waters near a U.S. army base where drums of toxic defoliant Agent Orange were allegedly buried about three decades ago, a joint inspection team of South Korean and U.S. officials said on Thursday.

No dioxin was extracted from groundwater near the military base, they said.

The team took samples from wells and streams near Camp Carroll late last month as part of its probe into allegations by former U.S. soldiers that they helped bury large amounts of the defoliant in 1978 inside the U.S. army base in Chilgok, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul.

Announcing the results of the water-quality probe, the team said that there were traces of dioxin ranging from 0.001 to 0.010 picograms per liter in the samples taken from three of the six spots on the streams.

The amounts represent a level only one three-thousandth to one thirty-thousandth of the standard level of drinking water set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the team said.

According to Seoul officials involved in the survey, the findings do not directly indicate that Agent Orange was buried in the U.S. base.

"We need more surveys to know whether pollution inside Camp Carroll generated the tiny amounts of dioxin in the stream waters," one of the officials said, requesting not to be named.

Agent Orange, which was widely used in the Vietnam War, is suspected of causing serious health problems, including cancer and genetic damage among some people, as well as birth defects in their children. The defoliant was contaminated by dioxin, a highly toxic substance.

The team added that samples from three of the 10 wells contained high amounts of pollutants except for dioxin, requiring a closer look into the groundwater.

Tetrachloroethene, a colorless liquid widely used for dry cleaning of fabrics, was found in one of the wells, it said.

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