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Pollutant found in U.S. base as high as 160 times normal limit: report

All News 15:04 April 18, 2017

SEOUL, April 18 (Yonhap) -- A contaminant detected in ground water beneath a U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) garrison in Seoul was as much as 162 times higher than the permissible level, a government report revealed by civic groups showed Tuesday.

The U.S. Army base in Yongsan, central Seoul, has long been suspected as the source of oil that has contaminated the nearby water and land.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government has been conducting a purification project since 2001, but the petroleum-based contaminants above the standard level have continued to be detected in water near the base.

According to a joint probe conducted by the environment ministry and the USFK in May 2015, 2.440 milligrams per liter of benzene was found at an observation well at the base, which is 162 times higher than the allowable level of 0.015 milligrams per liter, said the coalition of civic groups seeking a revision in the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the two countries.

Among 14 monitoring wells of 15 to 20 centimeters in diameter, four had benzene levels some 20 to 162 times higher than the standard, the report showed.

The revelation was made in line with the Supreme Court's order to disclose the probe results.

The Lawyers for a Democratic Society, a group of activist attorneys, filed a petition with a local administrative court in August 2015, after the government decided not to reveal the outcome at the request of the USFK.

The Seoul Administrative Court earlier said relevant information should be revealed for the people's right to know.

"It is hard to say if the two countries' ties will be damaged even if the information is disclosed," the administrative court said, adding the concealment could lead to further distrust in the USFK and unnecessary diplomatic issues.

The civic groups held a press conference in front of the Ministry of Environment in Sejong, central South Korea, and urged it to disclose the results of the second and third on-spot investigations carried out in January and August last year.

The Seoul city government also immediately released a statement, asking the ministry to promptly come up with plans for purification.


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