TORONTO STAR, AUGUST 11, 2006
OROMOCTO, N.B.—Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, once a testing ground for the infamous war defoliant Agent Orange, has been given a clean bill of health.
Independent researchers hired by the federal government to study the impact of herbicide spraying at the sprawling New Brunswick military base have determined present-day levels of dioxin are too low to be of serious concern.
They also have found that U.S. military testing of such defoliants as Agent Orange and Agent Purple at remote areas of the base in 1966 and 1967 did not pose a threat to the long-term health of people involved in the program.
Col. Ryan Jestin, the base commander, reacted to the two reports by immediately lifting restrictions on access to three areas of the base where soil sampling had found higher than acceptable levels of dioxin, a toxic byproduct in the production of herbicides like Agent Orange.
“I intend to resume training in those areas,” Jestin said, adding that Gagetown is a “world-class training facility.”
The Ontario-based firm, Dillon Consulting, and U.S.-based RBR Consulting carried out the study on current impacts on the base, while Cantox Environmental from Ontario looked at the effect of the U.S. military tests in the mid-’60s.
Although a peer review of the reports raised concerns about the objectivity of the findings, the federally appointed commission charged with getting to the bottom of the Agent Orange controversy is standing by the consultants.
People who are hoping to get compensation or military disability pensions as a result of their exposure to herbicide spraying at CFB Gagetown were disappointed with the results, and said their health was harmed by long-term exposure to herbicides.
Despite the latest health reports, veterans are being advised to continue trying to get pensions and compensation if they believe their health has suffered because of spray programs at Gagetown.