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


NEWS RELEASE November 27, 2001


Congressman Robert A. Underwood today said the General Accounting Office will limit its study of Defense Department environmental contamination record keeping to the Guam case. Originally, the plan was to include other areas.

"We've been in conversation with the GAO team since August, when they came out to Guam," the Congressman said. "I think they were genuinely surprised at what they found and agreed that it merits special study. I also think they were genuinely struck by the poor record keeping that had been done in the case of Guam specifically. Based on consultation with me, they've decided that the entire study will be done on Guam.

"This is excellent news because it will help focus the attention of the federal government on our situation. Assuming the study turns out the way we think, it will help us secure adequate funding for cleanup, because our claims for clean up will be validated. It also could help us craft legislation on how records should be kept," Underwood said.

At the Congressman's request earlier this year, the GAO agreed to review the way DOD identifies environmental contamination and how it records and manages such data. After the discovery of discarded military mustard gas test kits in Mongmong in 1999, Congressman Underwood called for an evaluation of community exposure to chemical hazards. The Agency for Toxic Substances Defense Registry (ATSDR), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, conducted the study and its October 2000 report indicated no immediate danger but some contamination from unknown sources. The ATSDR recommended further studies as well as a thorough archival search by various local and federal agencies to determine the disposition of chemical weaponry brought to Guam during and after World War II. The GAO investigative team conducted its on-site study three months ago.

"Much of the GAO work was trying to figure out the areas of contamination," the Congressman said. "Then they tried to reconcile that with the record keeping with the Army Corps of Engineers and PACDIV (Pacific Division) in Honolulu. The Army Corps is responsible for Army and Air Force records and PACDIV is responsible for Navy records. The study is historical in nature and is concerned with the responsibilities of the Department of Defense over land that is no longer in their direct control."

The GAO investigation will cover environmental contamination issues and record keeping on Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS), like the over-the-cliff dump at Ritidian Point, and properties returned as a result of BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) decisions, like Tiyan, or special legislation, like the Harmon Cliffline properties covered by Congressman Underwood's Guam Excess Lands Act, P.L. 103-339. It will not include current contamination problems or ongoing contamination issues.

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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