Guam – Sen. Therese Terlaje (D) disclosed to PNC a small victory in the fight to expose Agent Orange pollution on Guam, and the sickening toxins that may have been left behind after the hazardous defoliant was allegedly sprayed on island decades ago. The 34th Legislature’s Acting Speaker says the work she and her staff are putting in is finally turning gears at home and abroad.
After nearly a year of demanding soil toxicity tests in areas of Guam where Agent Orange was allegedly sprayed during the Vietnam War, Terlaje is celebrating a double milestone., one federal, one local.
“Over Veterans Day I was receiving messages. Yeah, so I’m very excited, too!” Terlaje said.
The Acting Speaker has been pressing the Government Accountability Office for answers about Vietnam Era Agent Orange herbicide spraying inside the fence, “because none of that’s public, and getting it to be public is a big challenge when you’re dealing with federal agencies that have [said they]…could not make certain things public.”
“So, luckily, though, I’ve been making a lot of progress,” Terlaje said. “So, by the way…the GAO report was supposed to be issued today, but they sent me a letter that said it will not be issued until Thursday. So we can expect it on Thursday. That’s the GAO’s report on Agent Orange.”
And that’s nothing to wave a wand at, considering that the Government Accountability Office is the investigative arm of Congress in Washington, DC.
Since February first, Terlaje, too, has been pressing the Guam Environmental Protection Agency to dig into lands outside the federal fence line, analyze samples, and make their findings public.
“And also, I’ve got a message from Guam EPA that they are starting testing this week, also,” Terlaje said. “So…this is the outside-the-fence testing on the Agent Orange–they’re going to start that this week. Hopefully, I think that it includes areas along the fuel lines and other areas that veterans have said in their testimony that they believe Agent Orange was sprayed.”
Agent Orange and other herbicides once used by the military are known carcinogens linked to more than a dozen federally recognized diseases. Agent Orange is also a suspected cause of multiple birth defects. Last month, self-described Agent Orange sprayer Air Force MSGT Leroy Foster of Florida died after suffering five cancers and 28 autoimmune diseases. Foster claimed to have sprayed tens of thousands of gallons of AO on Guam during the Vietnam War.
It’s cases like the late Mater Sergeant’s that Senator Terlaje is championing as a casus belli in her fight to uncover the truth and right the wrongs.
“You know, Agent Orange has been a big part of what I’ve had to do, you now, checks and balances, find out what we’re doing.”
This afternoon Acting Speaker Terlaje introduced Bill 372-34 (COR) to help Guam EPA become more accountable to the public by posting environmental violation notices, compliance orders and agreements online. Terlaje plans to call session once this month and once next.
The following news release was issued by the Office of Sen. Therese M. Terlaje on Tuesday:
U.S. Government Accountability Office Agent Orange Report Soon to be Released
FOR IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE (November 13, 18, 2018– Hagåtña)- In an email to Acting Speaker Terlaje, Brian Lepore, Director of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that they are pushing for issuance of the anticipated Agent Orange Report by Thursday, November 15, 2018. The report will also be posted to the U.S. GAO web site (https://www.gao.gov/) at approximately 2 pm (eastern standard time) on November 15th.
The GAO met with Guam senators back in December 2017 and stated they would be monitoring the status of Agent Orange testing on Guam. They expected to release a report of their findings in mid-June. Set backs in the investigation process, such as the inability to locate about a quarter of the shipping records needed to determine the ports of embarkation in the mainland United States and locations to or through which Agent Orange was shipped, delayed the issuance of the report.
Off-Base Sampling for Agent Orange to Begin Tomorrow
Additionally, Guam Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Walter Leon Guerrero recently informed the Acting Speaker that off-base sampling for Agent Orange will begin tomorrow at recommended areas, to include the fuel pipe line and sampling of the San Carlos Falls area for Agent Orange.
Following sampling efforts on Anderson Air Force Base in April 2018 that produced inconclusive results of the presence of Agent Orange, the USEPA agreed to provide GEPA with technical and financial support to conduct sampling for Agent Orange and areas outside of AAFB, where many Veterans, in sworn affidavits, stated that Agent Orange was sprayed or present.
“ I applaud the efforts of the Guam Environmental Protection Agency and am pleased to know that off-base sampling is finally underway. I am also eager to review the findings of the U.S. GAO report. It is my hope that these separate efforts will bring us closer to achieving justice and just compensation for our Veterans and our people,” stated Acting Speaker Terlaje.
The Office of Vice Speaker Therese M. Terlaje
Committee on Culture and Justice
I Mina’trentai Kuåttro na Liheslaturan Guåhan
34th Guam Legislature
Guam Congress Building, 163 Chalan Santo Papa, Hagåtña, Guam 96910
T: (671) 472-3586 F: (671) 472-3589