CNMI’S TANAPAG VILLAGE DECLARED A "TOXIC HOTSPOT" BYGREENPEACE

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GREENPEACE PACIFIC Suva, Fiji Islands

PRESS RELEASE April 18, 2000

CNMI’S TANAPAG VILLAGE DECLARED A"TOXIC HOTSPOT" BY GREENPEACE

Greenpeace has declared Tanapag village on the Pacific island of Saipan a toxic hotspot, and called on the U.S. Government to clean up its mess there.

Tanapag is a hotspot for PCB or polychlorinated biphenyls, which leaked into the ground in the village from U.S. military electrical transformers shipped to Saipan from other parts of the Pacific in the 1960s. PCBs are believed to cause cancer. They have also been linked to skin, liver, immune system, reproductive system and learning problems.

While the electrical transformers have been removed from the village, the soil is still contaminated. In fact two huge piles of contaminated dirt remain in the cemetery, poorly covered by a tarpaulin, and posing a potential health risk to the community.

"The cemetery is an important part of our culture," said Tanapag resident Mike Evangelista. "We are still burying our loved ones there, yet we are scared about what the contaminated soil is doing to us and our children."

"November first is a significant day in our religious calendar as "All Soul’s Day" when we come to pay our respects and hold mass in the cemetery for our departed loved ones. For the two weeks leading up to this day we clean the cemetery and gravesites. The Army Corps of Engineers must clean up the piles of contaminated soil before this very important day," said Mr. Evangelista.

"The U.S. government owes it to the people of Tanapag to clean up the mess left from its activities in the Pacific. Since the PCB contamination was discovered ten years ago, the remediation effort has been pitiful," said Greenpeace Pacific toxics campaigner Maureen Penjueli.

"The standard of the so-called clean up is far below what would be necessary in the United States," Penjueli said. "To leave PCB-contaminated soil in piles which can still be redistributed by rain through the village is completely unacceptable," she said.

Greenpeace is highlighting Tanapag as a global hotspot in an effort to bring it to the world’s attention. " Like residents at former U.S. defense sites in the Philippines, the people of Tanapag deserve answers to their many questions about the health impacts of the contamination, the effect on their food supplies, and the best way to safeguard themselves from further problems," Penjueli said.

For additional information, contact: Mike Evangelista on ++670 664 5103 or ++670 236 4220 Maureen Penjueli on ++679 312861 or mpenjuel@dialb.greenpeace.org  Samantha Magick on pmedia@dialb.greenpeace.org 

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