GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - If you drive 28th Street in Gulfport, you probably have wondered what has been going on in the northwest corner of the Seabee Base.
The area, known as Site 7, is being cleared and cleaned to remove any remaining Dioxin. It’s a dangerous chemical found in Agent Orange, a tactical herbicide used during the Vietnam War that has since been linked to certain cancers and other illnesses.
From 1968 to 1977, the Air Force stored more than 15,000 drums of the herbicide on the Seabee Base. Some of the drums leaked over time, contaminating surrounding areas.
Gulfport was actually the largest storage area for the chemical in the continental United States before it was shipped to Vietnam.
Over the years, the chemical has been removed from areas outside the Seabee Base and brought to a containment site on base which has been contained under one foot of concrete. That area is now used as a mobilization site for Navy heavy equipment.
This 18-acre site, which was a landfill, had exposure from low-level dioxin that was removed from surrounding ditches and placed there. The overall cleanup has been going on for 40 years.
“This is a fairly substantial milestone for the environmental restoration program on board NCBC Gulfport. That all of the sites that were identified have been remediated and put into a long-term status with not only the Navy, but also with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality,” explained J.D. Spalding with Naval Facilities and Engineering Command Southeast.
Spaulding called this phase of the cleanup, “the end of an era” that was established in the 1980s.