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Underground water in U.S. military base in South Korea heavily polluted

By
Wooyoung Lee
The Yongsan Park Gallery at what used to be the building of the United Service Organization inside the former Yongsan Garrison in central Seoul. The opening of the gallery the same day came after the headquarters of U.S. Forces Korea relocated to Pyeongtae from the garrison in June. The area will be turned into a park after USFK service members and the U.N. Command move to Pyeongtaek by the end of the year. Photo by Yonhap
The Yongsan Park Gallery at what used to be the building of the United Service Organization inside the former Yongsan Garrison in central Seoul. The opening of the gallery the same day came after the headquarters of U.S. Forces Korea relocated to Pyeongtae from the garrison in June. The area will be turned into a park after USFK service members and the U.N. Command move to Pyeongtaek by the end of the year. Photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- The underground water in the U.S. Forces Korea headquarters in Yongsan, Seoul is heavily contaminated with toxic pollutants, an inspection by the Seoul Metropolitan Government found.

The finding, released Friday, revealed a higher concentration of benzene 1,170 times normal levels in underground water detected at 16 tube wells around a subway station near the U.S. military base. The water under Camp Kim, adjacent to the base, also contained petroleum hydrocarbon 292 times higher at a normal level.

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The inspection team discovered oil floating on the surface of the water in most of the sites examined, a sign for persistent pollution from a heavy oil leak from the base in 2001.

City authorities found that benzene concentration decreased by 40 percent compared with 2004 and the level of other oil pollutants by 95 percent from 2008, which still exceed normal levels.

In 2001, a heavy oil spill was detected from the U.S. military base and Camp Kim in Yongsan, which contaminated underground water systems in the neighborhood.

The Eighth U.S. Army, which had been based in the Yongsan Garrison, moved last year to the southern city of Pyeongtaek where a new base Camp Humphreys is located. U.S. Forces opened its base in Yongsan, central Seoul, in August 1945.

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