On Thursday, a contractor for the US Environmental Protection Agency started an operation to remove barrels containing defoliants from Wallowa Lake in Oregon.
Last August, recreational divers Lisa Anderson and William Lambert came across barrels labeled as containing 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T, which are defoliants, chemicals that when sprayed on plants cause their leaves to fall off. The two defoliants combined are also known as Agent Orange.
“We didn’t know they were there,” Anderson told media outlets at the time. “When we dusted one off, we were shocked to see the words ‘weed killer’ on it.”
According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, Agent Orange was used by the US military between 1962 and 1975, when it was sprayed on trees and vegetation during the Vietnam War. Some veterans exposed to Agent Orange during military service later developed cancers and other health problems that have been found to be related to exposure to dioxin, a byproduct of Agent Orange production.
“Veterans who may have been exposed to Agent Orange include Veterans who were in Vietnam, the Korean Demilitarized Zone, on Thai Air Force bases, and who flew on or worked on C-123 Aircraft,” the VA writes on its website.
According to Laura Gleim, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the barrel removal process is expected to take several days. The containers are under 90 to 140 feet of water, Gleim added,…