After completion of the Environmental Remediation of Dioxin Contamination at Danang Airport in 2018, at the request of the Government of Vietnam (GVN), the U.S. Government agreed to cooperate on dioxin remediation at Bien Hoa Airbase Area, the primary Agent Orange storage and handling site during the U.S.-Vietnam War and the largest remaining dioxin hotspot in Vietnam.
ASSESSING THE CHALLENGE
Working in partnership with the GVN, USAID completed an assessment of dioxin contamination at Bien Hoa Airbase Area in 2016. Apart from determining the nature and extent of dioxin contamination, the assessment also developed potential remediation alternatives, including both containment and treatment options, to reduce the risk of dioxin exposure on and around the Airbase. The assessment identified almost 500,000 cubic meters of dioxin contaminated soil and sediment in need of remediation - almost four times the volume in Danang.
In 2018, USAID signed agreements with Vietnam’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) for an initial five-year, $183 million contribution to the Dioxin Remediation at Bien Hoa Airbase Area project. Following formal GVN project approval, USAID and MND launched the project on April 20, 2019. Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh, a nine-member U.S. Senate delegation led by Senator Patrick Leahy, and other high-level officials from the two governments joined the launch to highlight the project’s importance for deepening the U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership.
In January 2021, USAID and GVN partners completed a one-year project master planning process. The final plan presents a comprehensive ten-year implementation period of excavation and treatment activities costing up to $450 million. USAID contributions to the project will target activities in the plan’s initial, five-year phase. USAID’s contribution to date is $128,650,000 of the total estimated USAID contribution of $183 million.
EARLY FIELD WORK
Throughout 2020, USAID and MND collaborated on collecting and analyzing additional site data on topography, baseline environmental conditions, and soil contamination to guide detailed excavation and treatment design work. Guided by these analyses, USAID awarded two contracts for excavation and construction work. Initial excavation work targeted areas where contamination poses heightened health and environmental risks because of its proximity to the airbase and local community. USAID initiated excavation at the Gate 2 Lake Area in 2020 and, in 2021, began construction of a long-term storage facility for excavated soils with low levels of dioxin contamination and short-term storage for highly contaminated soils that will be treated in subsequent years. USAID anticipates awarding two additional five-year contracts in 2022.
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