Oil and chemical contamination: Reimagining the way we deal with environmental catastrophe
The Korean Peninsula has been at the forefront of the global geopolitical agenda in recent months. Increased tensions between North Korea on one side, and Japan, South Korea, and the United States on the other, have led to led to almost unprecedented levels of worldwide anxiety, particularly as much of the rhetoric hints heavily at – or even directly references – the use of nuclear force.
It was beneath this landslide of heavy words and provocative action that another headache for the United States military, and for our planet as a whole, was buried. In October 2017, soil and groundwater test results for the military base of Camp Market in Bupyeong, Incheon were released. Of the thirty-three areas around the base which were subjected to testing, seven were found to have dioxin levels of above 1,000 pg-TEQ/g. The sample with the highest dioxin content was found to have 10,347 pg-TEQ/g; a level which poses a severe risk to humans and to the surrounding environment.
Other contaminants found at dangerously high levels within the samples collected were total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), tetrachloroethylene (TCE), trichloroethylene (TCE) benzene, and heavy metals.
The fact that Camp Market is the site of serious contamination is already well-established. The base and military depot has been closed for some time, after a survey from July 2015 to March 2016 found severe levels of environmental pollution within the US-administered compound. However, further tests have confirmed fears that the contaminants have indeed polluted the area immediately adjacent to the base, and perhaps beyond.
Bupyeong is not an isolated location. It is a suburb of Incheon; a city with a population of 3 million. The pollution from the military base poses a significant risk to the people living close by, as well as to the water table and to the local environment. While this may not register as highly on the global news radar as the threat of thermonuclear war from north of the 38th parallel, it still represents a serious issue which must be addressed.