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Oregon officials start work removing barrels labeled with Agent Orange chemicals from bottom of lake

The Hill logo The Hill 6/14/2019 Brooke Seipel
a small boat in a body of water: Oregon officials start work removing barrels labeled with Agent Orange chemicals from bottom of lake © EPA Oregon officials start work removing barrels labeled with Agent Orange chemicals from bottom of lake

Oregon officials with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week began removing barrels recently discovered at the bottom of Wallowa Lake marked as containing chemicals.

The Twitter account for U.S. EPA Region 10 tweeted about the ongoing work on Thursday, saying officials were starting to test and remove the 12, 100-gallon drums. The barrels are labeled as containing either 2,4-D or 2,4,5-T, commonly known as Agent Orange, which was widely used during the Vietnam War and has been linked to a number of illnesses, including cancer.

While the cleanup begins, officials said the drinking water source for the city of Joseph was temporarily switched to a backup.

According to a report by Oregon Live, the barrels were discovered by divers in August. An official told the outlet that the drums could be sitting in water between 90 and 140 feet deep, which, combined with cold temperatures in the lake, could complicate the process of obtaining the barrels.

EPA officials planned to operate a remote vehicle on Friday to survey the site and continue planning for the removal of the barrels.

It remains unclear how the drums came to be in the lake, and if they are filled with the chemicals as labeled.

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