"(USEPA) Administrator Pruitt has given us his assurance of assistance as Guam EPA moves forward with testing not only for Agent Orange, but for any dioxins that could negatively impact the health of our veterans and our people." – Gov. Eddie Calvo
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said the agency would help Guam with testing for the Vietnam War-era herbicide Agent Orange in Guam, the governor’s office announced yesterday.
Gov. Eddie Calvo met with Pruitt yesterday and they discussed the situation in which several military veterans have come forward about the use of Agent Orange in Guam, according to the governor’s office.
"Administrator Pruitt has given us his assurance of assistance as Guam EPA moves forward with testing not only for Agent Orange, but for any dioxins that could negatively impact the health of our veterans and our people," the governor stated.
GEPA has sought out price quotes from several environmental companies that can test for Agent Orange and other chlorinated pesticides. The agency also is coordinating with the Department of Defense to test areas on military bases that may have been affected.
Karnig Ohannessian, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for the environment, has also expressed interest in discussing Agent Orange’s impact, according to the governor’s office.
"We look forward to partnering with the USEPA to ensure that our people’s health and island’s environment are protected," GEPA Administrator Walter Leon Guerrero said.
"I advised Administrator Pruitt that regulations like these will put quite a burden on our people, with our small population of 165,000 having to foot the bill," the governor said in a press release. "Our island is committed to keeping our water and air clean, but I’d like to work with him to move in a direction that the people of Guam can afford."
The FOSTER Act
The possible use of Agent Orange in Guam received national publicity recently when House Senior Deputy Majority Whip Dennis A. Ross, from Florida’s 15th District, introduced the expanded Agent Orange legislation, called Fighting for Orange-Stricken Territories in Eastern Regions, or FOSTER Act.
In a statement from Ross’ office, he said the legislation would:
grant presumptive Agent Orange exposure status to U.S. service members who served in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands or American Samoa during the Vietnam War; and
enable eligible veterans to receive expedited consideration for VA benefits if they suffer from any of the diseases the U.S. government has linked to Agent Orange.
The legislation is named after Master Sgt. Leroy Foster, of Florida, who has said he personally sprayed Agent Orange in Guam while serving at Andersen Air Force Base during the Vietnam War.
Foster has claimed he has more than 30 diseases and multiple cancers due to his exposure to Agent Orange in Guam, but does not qualify for VA benefits for his ailments under current law.
Ross has also sent letters to former U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry and House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe requesting a briefing and information on the use of Agent Orange in Guam.
The congressman’s staff met with Department of Defense officials two weeks ago, and requested more information on specific chemicals, herbicides and pesticides used during the Vietnam War, after the Air Force maintained its position that Agent Orange was not used outside of Vietnam and Thailand.
Calvo has instructed the GEPA to conduct a full battery of tests on drinking water sources and soils for traces of chemicals found in Agent Orange.