FAIRBANKS - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants help from the public in its hunt for one of the world's deadliest manmade toxins.
The toxin could be in Alaska soil that was once part of a Haines-to-Fairbanks military oil pipeline. The search was spurred by an official state request. Army correspondence surfaced in late 2002 confirming that the herbicide Agent Orange was sprayed on the 626-mile-long pipeline's right of way in the 1960s to clear vegetation.
The corps needs public input to determine where to take soil samples in their search for the toxin, said Richard Jackson, a corps project manager.
The corps plans to take 20 samples from the right-of-way and five samples for background readings, he said. Test results would be available by January 2004.
The Army used three types of herbicides on land surrounding the eight-inch pipeline. The line was built in 1953 to supply petroleum products for Interior military bases. It operated until 1971.
One herbicide, called Esteron, was the same herbicide that was used during the Vietnam War to clear jungle foliage.
Agent Orange has been linked to a multitude of health problems, including cancer and Type II diabetes, among Vietnam veterans and their children.
About half of the 626-mile pipeline ran near the Richardson Highway and along the Alaska Highway. The other half went into British Columbia and the Yukon. Approximately 44 miles is in Haines.
Much of the former Alaska right-of-way is on state land, while other sections are tribally or privately owned.
A former manager at a pipeline pump station in Tok recalled that nothing grew in the right of way for about 10 years after the pipeline was shut down.
Indeed, most of the old pipeline's route has grown back with moss, low-lying plants, birch and alder trees. Much of the route is still used for recreation and hunting year around.
Anyone wishing to comment should contact Richard Jackson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, at (907) 753-5606 or Greg Light, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, at (907) 451-2117.