GREENPEACE CONDEMNS U.S. DECISION

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U.S. TOXIC WASTE LEAVES JAPAN FOR WAKE ISLAND

YOKOHAMA, Japan (May 14, 2000 – Radio Australia)---Toxic waste from U.S. military bases in Japan is on its way to Wake Island, about 1,800 miles west of Hawai‘i.

A U.S. freighter left Yokohama port yesterday for Wake Island with the 100 tons of waste laden with low levels of cancer-causing PCB material.

The international environmental group Greenpeace has denounced the U.S. military for not planning to treat the waste in an environmentally responsible way.

Activists from Greenpeace's Japanese branch watched the loading and departure of the ship.

The U.S. embassy said last week the waste would be stored on Wake Island temporarily.

The U.S. territory is used as an Army missile launch support facility.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

 

GREENPEACE PACIFIC Suva, Fiji Islands Tokyo, Japan

PRESS RELEASE May 14, 2000

TO HIDE TOXIC PCB WASTE ON PACIFIC ATOLL ISLAND

Greenpeace today condemned the United States for its decision to ship the controversial cargo of toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) waste from Japan for long-term storage at Wake Island in the Pacific Ocean, without any concrete plans to treat the waste in an environmentally responsible way. (1)

The twelve containers of PCB waste were loaded yesterday on to the MV GreenWave, which departed a U.S. military dock in Yokohama just after 1600 Japan time. Activists from Greenpeace Japan and the Greenpeace flagship "Rainbow Warrior" bore witness to the loading and departure, unfurling a banner stating, "Don’t Dump on the Pacific."

The PCB cargo, which contains by-products from activities at the former U.S. military installations in Japan, was earlier refused entry into Canada and United States. (2)

Greenpeace warned that the United States is attempting to evade its earlier commitment to dispose of the hazardous waste in an environmentally responsible way as it plans to store the fourteen toxic containers on a remote atoll, which is a U.S. protectorate and home to a U.S. Army missile facility. While PCBs -- as hazardous waste -- are banned from entering the United States mainland, places like Wake Island are not governed by the same customs procedures.

"It is vital that the United States give a full public disclosure about how it finally intends to destroy this PCB waste instead of shifting it from one community to another. By its latest maneuver, the U.S. simply aims to cool down the public outcry and hide the hazardous load from the public eye without having any concrete plans to destroy it in an environmentally sound way," said Greenpeace Pacific spokesperson Samantha Magick.

"The U.S. plan for dealing with this deadly cargo has been wrapped in secrecy from the start. This is causing alarm in potential victim communities where the waste is likely to show up. Full public disclosure is required for a matter that has serious environmental and public health implications," said Ayako Sekine, Toxics campaigner of Greenpeace Japan.

Earlier reports indicated that the fourteen PCB containers were going to be shipped to Johnston Atoll for incineration at a chemical weapons destruction facility. Others suggested that it was going to transit through Guam, another atoll island in the Pacific. However, the Guam local government has rejected a proposal to receive the waste even for transit or temporary storage purposes.

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, it will open the floodgates to hundreds, if not thousands of tons of U.S. military wastes being dumped in the Pacific.

"Pacific Island governments still have time to tell the U.S. military that they do not want the Pacific turned into a dumping ground for U.S. hazardous waste," said Greenpeace Pacific’s Magick.

Greenpeace maintains that the United States should take responsibility for destroying the PCB waste from its overseas military bases in an ecologically responsible manner using non-incineration technologies. Incineration of PCB results in the transformation of the chemicals into other potent and persistent poisons including dioxins.

For more information: Samantha Magick, Greenpeace Pacific, Tel +679 314690 Ayako Sekine, Greenpeace Japan Toxics Campaigner, Tel: +81-90- 2254- 0114 Dr. Darryl Luscombe, Greenpeace International Toxics Campaign, Tel: +1- 613-746-5741

Follow Greenpeace’s Toxic Free Asia Tour on the web: http://www.greenpeace.org/~toxics/toxfreeasia/ 

Notes:

(1) Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are highly toxic chemical compounds whose production has been banned worldwide. (Only one production capacity in Russia remains.) PCBs are listed as one of the "dirty dozen" persistent organic pollutants (POPs) by the United Nations Environment 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. There are still vast amounts of PCBs in use in transformers and other electrical equipment. The Greenpeace report "Alternative Detoxification Technologies for Persistent Organic Pollutant Stockpiles" outlines technical criteria for treatment of PCBs and other POPs. The report can be obtained on http://www.greenpeace.org/~toxics/reports/alttech2.pdf  or

http://www.who.int/ifcs/isg3/d98-17b.htm 

(2) The US Department of Defense had initially arranged for the material to be disposed of at a facility in Canada and later in the mainland U.S. However the cargo was first rejected by the Canadian government because the company contracted to treat the waste, Trans Cycle Industries (TCI), did not have the necessary import permits. Then, following a public outcry and stiff resistance from environmentalists and labor groups, it was also rejected in Seattle, in the U.S. When the shipment returned to Japan in middle of April, Greenpeace activists boarded the container ship carrying the toxic cargo to Yokohama and demanded that the U.S. take on environmentally acceptable solutions for the detoxification of the waste. In its statement dated April 18th, the U.S. Embassy gave a public commitment that the cargo would be treated in an "environmentally sound way."

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