It could take months for military to learn if anything toxic was buried in an overgrown corner of CFB Gagetown
It was more than just a stroll down memory lane for Al White.
When the retired military police sergeant returned to Base Gagetown in New Brunswick last week, he brought with him the memory and the burden of friends lost to the ravages of time and cancer.
On Thursday, he also led scientists and environmental engineers from National Defence on a damp trek directly to the spot where he claims dozens of barrels containing the notorious defoliant Agent Orange were secretly buried over three decades ago.
The location was not among the contaminated sites flagged by the military in the six decades since the base was established.
"It's good," White told CBC News. "I'm glad to be here to do this and bring some form of closure."
White claims that, in the late spring of 1985, he escorted a flatbed truck loaded with chemical barrels to a point near the base's tank training range, where they were buried in a large hole near an area known as the Shirley Road dump.
It happened before sunrise and White said he'd always found it suspicious. He kept silent, however, until he lost three friends — all former Gagetown soldiers — to cancer.
The speed and confidence with which he pointed out the site impressed defence officials, including the base's chief of environment services, a geophysicist and a environmental engineer.
"Pretty darn precise," said Pam Cushing, senior project manager with the National Defence Directorate of Contaminated Sites.
Cushing and White used maps and aerial photos of the area, wrapped in plastic against the rain, to confirm his recollection.