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PRESS RELEASE May 10, 2000


Greenpeace says members of the Pacific Islands Forum should tell the United States military that its toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have no place in the Pacific region.

The toxic waste from U.S. military bases in Japan has been refused entry into the United States, Canada and Guam but now the U.S. wants to store it on Wake Island in the central Pacific for an indefinite period of time.

"This is totally unacceptable and the Pacific governments need to speak up and tell the U.S. to deal with the problem in-situ," said Greenpeace Pacific spokesperson, Samantha Magick.

Wake Island, a U.S. protectorate in the Pacific, is home to a U.S. Army missile facility and is not covered by U.S. customs procedures. While PCBs are banned from entering the U.S., places like Wake Island are not governed by such prohibitions.

"This decision is utterly despicable and flies in the face of earlier U.S. commitments to dispose of the waste using ecologically sound methods. Long-term storage in the Pacific without concrete commitments for the setting up of alternative non-incineration facilities in the U.S. to destroy the wastes is nothing but an underhanded attempt to deceive the public yet again about the ultimate fate of these toxic materials," said Magick.

Greenpeace maintains the U.S. should take responsibility for destroying these wastes using ecologically sound, non-incineration technologies. Incineration of PCBs may result in the transformation of these chemicals into other potent and persistent poisons, including dioxins.

"The U.S. cannot keep shifting the environmental and public health burden associated with this cargo from one community to another. There is already a significant PCB disposal problem in the Pacific, both in Guam and Saipan, where local populations are demanding the remediation of villages contaminated by PCBs -- which are also of U.S. military origin."

"It is an insult to consider sending more PCBs into the region when efforts to clean up the mess here have been so poor, and the U.S. so uncaring about the health and welfare of islanders living with the poisons," added Magick.

"According to a U.S. Congressional document dated March 1999, the U.S. military has PCB wastes stockpiled at bases around the world. Greenpeace is concerned that if the current shipment of waste from Japan is allowed onto Wake Island, this will open the floodgates to hundreds, if not thousands of tons of U.S. military wastes being dumped in the Pacific," Magick said.

"There are means to safely treat PCBs in-situ and this is what the U.S. should be concentrating on, rather than shuttling the poisonous cargo to our part of the world," Magick said. "Unless Pacific Island governments make their opposition loud and clear, their silence will be taken for tacit agreement that it is acceptable to ship the materials to Wake Island."

Note: PCBs or polychlorinated biphenyls are highly toxic chemical compounds whose production has been banned worldwide. PCBs are listed as one of the "dirty dozen" persistent organic pollutants (POPs) by the United Nations Environmental Program for global elimination in an international treaty presently being negotiated by over 100 governments. Incineration of the PCB waste will give rise to dioxin and other toxic emissions.

For more information: Samantha Magick in Suva: Tel: ++679 312861

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