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Legacy of Our Veterans' Military Exposures
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The military’s mess: Johnston Atoll, the army’s ‘model’ chemical disposal facility, is an environmental disaster

May 07, 2011

The military's mess: Johnston Atoll, the army's 'model' chemical disposal facility, is an environmental disaster

Remote Johnston Atoll, despite its location, is no Paradise Island. It's been a dumping ground for lethal weaponry – and atomic bomb testing – since the 1950s.

Its current mandate is the burning of up to 6.6 percent of the total U.S. chemical weapons stockpile. (The cache includes some 400,000 weapons, notably mustard gas and 400 tons of nerve gas.) In January 1995, the Army asked for an extension and an additional $650 million to complete its mission; last May, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave the Army a year's grace period.

Plutonium is not the only lethal substance to leak into Johnston. In the 1970s, the U.S. shipped to the atoll millions of gallons of dioxin-contaminated Agent Orange, the birth defect-causing defoliant used in Vietnam. According to Mr. D., "The Agent Orange was stored in 55-gallon drums, which rusted, and the Agent Orange leaked into the soil." This still-contaminated area is also fenced off. According to Wilkes, the herbicide was finally burned in 1976 on the Vulcanus II incinerator ship, which he calls "notoriously inefficient." He adds, "Here, to an extreme degree, the U.S. military does anything that is too unpopular, too dangerous and too secret to do elsewhere in the Pacific."


Legacy of Our Veterans' Military Exposures
  1. Gary L. Bixby Reply

    I am sorry for what happened to your father.  I was assigned to Johnston Island performing TDY duty numerous times between 1980 and 1984.  On one of my trips, I was looking at surveyed Coast Guard equipment in the island outside dumpsite.  I had walked through some low weeds and was told by Coast Guard personnel that I had just walked through an Agent Orange spill.  We all laughed a little and I thought nothing of it until about 3 years ago when I had ended up in the hospital with some heart pain.  Having also contracted type 2 diabetes, hypertension, now psoraiasis and several other symptoms I tried to file a clain through the vA and was denied because of the denial of Agent Orange there.  I have had several weird things happening to me, but would like to have some recourse.

  2. Linda Bays Justice Reply

    My dad was on Johnston Island for a yr.   68-69    He died at the age of 49 with cancer.  Of course, they told him it wasn't service connected.

  3. Ed Dyer Reply

    I was there from 1994 to 1995 and we had to check the dumpsite also. I was also there on March 23, 1994, when there was an accidental release of live nerve agent GB from a JACADS smokestack. Then again, on Dec. 24, 1994, there was a fire at JACADS caused by "a coolant line that came apart, spraying coolant on the hot surface of the deactivation furnace. I now have Diabetes and Breathing problems ever since.

    • admin Reply

      Thank you Ed for your service and sacrifice for our country.

  4. Robert Conner Reply

    I was there in 1968, it was top secret, they wouldn't say what was in those barrels.
    However, at 42 I developed cataracts, after having had perfect eyesight all 
    my years prior. Very suspicious. Probably no way to prove it.

  5. Michael Webb Reply

    I served on Johnston Island for 16 months.  From 1980-1981.  The 55-gallon drums of Agent Orange were still present during my tour of duty.  I witnessed the 55-gallon drums rusting and leaking.  We were required to check the dump site.  I am presently filing with the VA for exposure to Agent Orange.  I not only swam in the waters around Johnston Island but walked ankle deep in it.  If I can find any assistance to help me in the matter please feel free to contact me.  I am presently diagnosed with Type II Diabetes, I do not have history of Diabetes in my entire family.

  6. Luvenia Mabus Reply

    Excellent web page

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