A Black Watch veteran's suggestion of where to look for buried Agent Orange barrels might have turned up a valuable clue for Canadian Forces Base Gagetown officials.
David Weir was a soldier while the toxic herbicides were being sprayed in 1966 and 1967, and he remembers seeing about 25 or 30 used barrels in one part of the base's large training area. Now, as private contractor MGI Ltd, locates where these and other barrels may be buried, Weir's site suggestion has turned up two large metallic anomalies central to the base's investigation to determine if spent herbicide parrels are buried at CFB Gagetown. ""I know they were barrels. They had stripes on them,"" he said, referring to the barrel's tell-tale coding stripe.
Agent Orange got its name because of the orange stripe on its barrels. Base commander Col. Ryan Jestin and MGI official Mike Sauerteig told veterans and the media Friday they have identified seven sites and 12 metallic anomalies. ' Jestin said a tender has been issued for a contractor to excavate the objects, a slow process due to the presence of unexploded ordinance in the training area. He wouldn't speculate if the objects are herbicide barrels but promised a definitive answer by mid-November.
Sauerteig said MGI found the anomalies using electromagnetic detection equipment capable of penetrating three metres into the soil. Large objects produce a stronger signal, he said, but the signal can't identify different types of large metallic objects. ""Our findings indicate there are metallic anomalies present,"" Sauer-teig said. ""The information we have would not tell you whether it is a drum or whether it is a small metal object of some sort. A further assessment would be required to confirm what those objects actually are."" In some cases, the shape of the signal gives the object away. A long line would be a metal power cord, Sauer-teigsaid.
Jestin said he's confident the detection equipment is finding any possible barrel dump sites. ""I want to be absolutely convinced that CFB Gagetown is a safe place to train, to work, to live and to play,"" he said. ""I'm doing everything I can to make sure that our soldiers have complete confidence that, when they come here to train, they are doing it in a place that's safe.""
Black Watch Association president Earl Graves said he's pleased with the military's response so far to finding dump sites where spent barrels of Agent Orange may have been buried. ""Ihey're bending over backwards,"" he said. ""You can't get any better service."" Graves did question the soil sampling program. During a recent trip to the training area for a demonstration, he asked why the samples were only being taken from the soil's surface. Dioxin sticks to the soil, he said, and it's possible it got buried further down when training bombs kicked up soil. Jestin said soil sampling is being taken at depths up to one metre to make sure any dioxin present in the soil is found. ""They do tend to stick to the top layer of the soil, but we're going deeper than that,"" he said