August 17th, 2011, lighting ignited more than just the Frio Fire in the Pinal Mountains near Globe, AZ. The slow burning fire, which as of October 14th is still not officially out, was ideal for clearing underbrush and thinning the forest to prevent more catastrophic fires in the future. The fire also re-ignited what for years has been known by locals as “Globe’s dirty little secret.
In 1965, the US Forest Service began a land improvement program in the Pinal Mountains. The program called for spraying an area of chaparral with Agent Orange to accomplish the objectives of multiple land use. For just over a month the smoke from the 2011 Frio Fire blanketed the communities at the base of the Pinals Mountains. Globe, Claypool, Miami and to the south east Dripping Springs, residents expressed concerns about the heavy, sometimes stifling smoke that filled the air. Frustrated with the length of time the fire has been permitted to burn, people began to express concerns about the increasing number of citizen’s experiencing respiratory complications from the smoke. For years long time residents of surrounding communities have questioned whether the herbicides sprayed in the late 1960’s were being released into the air and carried into the community with the smoke. Despite “studies” funded by the Federal Government, they believe the Dioxins left behind still exist in the Pinal Mountains.
When initially contacted about the Frio Fire, Forest Service Officials and EPA staff said they knew nothing of Agent Orange in the area. After further inquiry the Forest Service cited 3 studies;
- In 1970 the Oregon State University and the USDA Forest Service study demonstrated minimal hazard to man and his environment.
- In 1992 and 1993, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) took samples in Kellner Canyon and found no detectable amounts in all water and sediment samples.
- In 1998, the Agenc y for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) performed a Health Consultation forthDioxin spraying. They found there was no reason for further health or environmental follow-up.
The Forest Service says, “According to EPA, the residue from spraying is gone from the environment after one growing season as it is broken down by sun and weather.” http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/tonto/Herbicide Studies
They fail to mention the 1986 EPA Study of 2500 acres in the Globe Ranger District. The report states that soil samples were collected from three helicopter landing areas used as herbicide mixing-loading areas and from 5 other locations within the sprayed area. Whole animal and animal tissues were also collected. 24 of 77 soil samples had 2,3,7,8-TCDD at levels of 2 to 564ppt.
Soil contamination was found at two of the three mixing-loading areas. According to Blake Morlock, Tucson Weekly, the EPA found the highest Dioxin concentration anywhere in America on the helipad above Globe. The report states that the Dioxin was also detected a short distance beyond the actual mixing/loading locations. The report states that no Dioxin was detected at the other 5 locations or in any of the animal samples. Forty-five addition samples, which include soil and fish, were collected from 3 additional and one previously sampled mixing-loading areas. Twenty-one of those contained Dioxin levels from 0.4 to 6623ppt. Four samples had levels great than 1000ppt. No Dioxins were found in the fish. The U.S. Forest Service had restricted access to the contaminated heli-pads. The report says, “EPA is reviewing alternative treatment technologies. The Forest Service indicated willingness to sponsor a pilot project.” The 1986 EPA Study called for some type of “Alternative Technologies” to address the contamination. Despite these findings, to date, no known clean up efforts have been taken.
Charges of a White House cover-up have been substantiated by a report from the House Government Operations Committee. That report, released August 9, 1990, charges that officials in the Reagan Administration purposely “controlled and obstructed” a federal Agent Orange study in 1987 because it did not want to admit government liability in cases involving the toxic herbicides. If as the report states the EPA studies were skewed to limit government liability, then Dioxin levels that already warranted restrictions, calling for a Alternative Treatment Technologies (clean up) plan, are likely much higher than reported.
Since 1985, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been working on publishing a study of the health problems associated with Dioxin. In April of 2011 the Untied States Congress sent the EPA a letter asking for the result of the EPA’s study. In that letter Congress writes:
“The American people have waited for more than twenty years for the EPA to complete its reassessment of the potential health risk of human exposure to Dioxin. In 2001, the EPA’s Science advisory Board sent a letter to the EPA Administrator Whitman to “proceed expeditiously to the complete and release” the report. More than 9 years later, this document has still not been completed. A draft of the EPA’s report was recently released with little new information.
News reports show that in 1990, Gila County Manager Steve Besich contacted Congressman John Kyl, who in turn asked the EPA to test Kellner and Ice House Canyons for residual Silvex and Dioxin. Eighteen months later his office was told that no survey was needed because the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality had thoroughly studied the area and deemed it ‘decontaminated.’ However, it was reported to one official that the state never tested Kellner Canyon.
Globe District Chief Ranger Larry Widener remembers this testing “They (EPA researchers) told us they would be back to clean up the ground and we never heard from them again,” he says, adding he’s tired of the runaround. “If there is a health problem,” he says, “I’ve got to know what the hell to do about it.” http://www.getipm.com/articles/poisonedlives.html
An old FS map of the Pinal Mountain Range showing the areas treated with Agent Orange, was sent to Richard Reitz with the USFS asking that they use that map to graph the area burned in the Frio Fire.
This completed map shows that, according to the FS, 250 acres of Agent Orange treated land had burned during the 2011 Frio Fire.
According to the U.S. Veteran Dispatch neither the government nor the chemical companies told anyone was that burning Dioxins significantly increases the toxicity of the Dioxins. The 1986 EPA Study shows other cases in which fire substantially increased Dioxins, in one incident leading to evacuations.
September 27th, after news reports were broadcast telling people that the fire had burned areas treated with AO, a former FS Management Officer, upset with the content of the report wrote “As for a map of the spray project, I do not know if any still exist, but I can tell you that from my knowledge of the area, I don’t believe that the fire is into the spray area.”
That same day, at the scene of the Frio Fire, responding to a question, a Forest Service Official said, “We are notifying firefighters that areas burning in the lower canyons had been treated with Agent Orange.”
Three days later, On September 30th, a Forest Service Information Officer, again citing the 3 studies in an attempt to put an end to the questioning, wrote in an e-mail: “”Let me repeat: There are no herbicide cautions/restrictions for our firefighters anywhere on the Tonto National Forest. If there were, both the public and the firefighters would be warned and the areas restricted.”
With confirmation that treated areas had burned in Frio Fire and that Dioxins were present during the time the studies cited by the FS deemed the area “decontaminated,” the question remains, are the Dioxinslisted on the EPA study still hazardous to the community, were harmful amounts of Dioxin being released in to atmosphere during the fire and what is the likelihood that the Dioxins listed on the EPA study will wash down with winter runoff into Russell Gulch and other streams leading to surrounding communities?
Morlock’s report “Poisoned Lives” says that shortly after the 1969 spraying in Globe, the Forest Service engaged in illegal dumping. It took the unused defoliant barrels left over from the helipad and buried them in a mine shaft.120 miles to the north near Alpine, Arizona. The barrels were discovered when a worker who took part in the exercise came forward in 1989. No criminal charges were filed. His report claims that there are still barrels of the toxin unaccounted for. Some believe those barrels were buried in the Pinal Mountains. http://www.getipm.com/articles/poisonedlives.html
According to a group called the Government Indian, barrels of Dioxins have been found on the San Carlos Apache Reservation over the years. In one case a whole room full of barrels containing the Dioxins were found in the late 1990’s in the Tufa Stone buildings used by government administrations. Three 55-gallon containers were said to have been removed in 2008 from a BIA compound on the reservation, remnants of spraying programs in the 1960’s according to local residence and eyewitnesses. Reports are that the Bureau of Indian Affairsquietly removed the barrels. http://www.governmentindian.com/
The Agent Orange Cover up: A Case of Flawed Science and Political Manipulation,
U.S. Congress, Committee on Government Operations, House Report 101-672, August 9, 1990