CONGRESSMAN UNDERWOOD AGAIN CALLS FOR FEDERAL SURVEY OF GUAM WWII MUNITIONS

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CONGRESSMAN ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD Delegate from Guam U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C.

 

NEWS RELEASE October 3, 2000

AND CHEMICAL DUMPS

In a speech on the House floor today, Congressman Robert A. Underwood reiterated his call for the Department of Defense, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a thorough search of the historical records to identify World War II-era dumpsites on Guam.

His call comes on the heels of the discovery last week at Andersen Air Force Base of unexploded ordinance and possibly more chemical weapons test kits, similar to those found in Mongmong last year. Last month, drums containing unknown liquids were discovered at Tiyan, formerly Naval Air Station Agana. The Navy later announced that the Tiyan finds were not hazardous.

"I'm very much concerned about the safety of my constituents, in light of these recent discoveries of chemical weapons testing kits containing measurable amounts of mustard gas and other toxic chemicals on Guam," the Congressman told his colleagues. "Given the public health dangers associated with exposure to these substances, I've requested the Department of Defense to perform an historical record survey to determine the final disposition of chemical weaponry that was brought to Guam.

"This survey should be comprehensive and should include identifying former military dump sites as well as other potential disposal sites used by the military," he said. "Guam has been a significant area for U.S. military activity for more than 50 years. First used as a major staging area during WWII, the military presence on Guam has increased correspondingly with the Korean and Vietnam wars, and its full value as an area to forward deploy American military forces continues to be strong even in today's post-Cold War era.

"But over these many years, it's becoming clear that it was military activities during World War II that pose the greatest threat to the people of Guam," he continued.

Congressman Underwood made reference to the recent work of the Micronesia Area Research Center's William Wuerch, who uncovered evidence that several tons of chemicals weapons, such as napalm and mustard gas, were brought into Guam in the late 1940s, but found no evidence that they were ever removed.

Underwood also chided the comments of an Army Corps of Engineers official, who said in a news article that no search would be conducted because locating old dumpsites would be like "looking for a needle in a haystack."

"With these two discoveries of toxic chemicals in less than two years, I believe that we have in fact found just the beginning of countless needles in the haystack," the Congressman said, referring to the most recent finds in Mongmong and Andersen.

"In addition, this is combined with another issue concerning the environmental condition of Guam, and that is the inability to take PCBs (polychlorinated biphenols) out of Guam," he said. Although PCBs are U.S. products, which arrive in Guam for both military and civilian use, they cannot be shipped back to the U.S. for disposal. However, the U.S. military and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas are exempt.

"This disparate treatment between military bases and the civilian community of Guam composed of U.S. citizens, like just everywhere else, is simply intolerable and must be resolved by EPA," the Congressman said. "I think it's a situation that cries out for a solution and fair and balanced treatment for all the territories and again I'm calling on the Department of Defense to conduct a comprehensive review of the documentary evidence about the storage of weapons on Guam and to conduct a survey of the island."

For additional information, contact: Cathy Gault at 671-477-4272

Washington office: 2418 Rayburn Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515 Tel: 202-225-1188 Fax: 202-226-0341 Email: guamtodc@mail.house.gov 

Guam office: 120 Fr. Duenas Ave., Ste 107 Hagatna, GU 96932 Tel: 671-477-4272 Fax: 671-477-2587 

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