Lenarcic knows about dioxin. It was a key ingredient of the herbicide Agent Orange, used widely as a defoliant during the Vietnam War and later linked to birth defects and cancers, including non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Through the years, Lenarcic’s work with Vietnam veterans, their exposure to Agent Orange and its after-effects have topped his list of concerns.
In the 1940s and 50s, the government experimented with Agent Orange at several sites across the country, one being Fort Drum — then called Camp Drum. According to the Agent Orange Record, in 1959, 1,035 acres of sugar maples and other hardwoods at the army base near Watertown in Jefferson County were sprayed in a test to see how effective the herbicides were against foliage.
According to the Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organization, several U.S. communities at or near Agent Orange manufacturing or storage sites continue to report dioxin levels above recommended safety standards. Among them is Fort Drum. Lenarcic suggests that the dioxin possibly worked its way into the aquifer that serves the Kuyahoora Valley area.