PACIFIC PARADISE IMAGE HIDES TONS OF WASTE OIL AND DEADLY CHEMICALS: REPORT

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By Michael Field

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (October 2, 2000 – Agence France-Presse)---They might look like picture-postcard paradises but the South Pacific's smallest nations are being threatened by their own bewildering array of wastes, a new report says.

Many of the nations cited for making a mess of themselves are critical of industrial nations who, they claim, are going to swamp them through global warming and sea-level rise.

The Apia based 22-nation South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP) surveyed wastes in 13 Pacific countries, finding tons of waste oil, hazardous or potentially hazardous chemicals including pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, general industrial chemicals, medical wastes, laboratory chemicals, oil, bitumen, timber treatment chemicals and fertilizers.

SPREP's report was highlighted last week at the Pacific Islands Health Officers Association conference in the Northern Marianas where Tinian mayor Francisco Borja noted there were more than 50 contaminated sites around the Pacific.

His own territory is severely polluted by World War II and Cold War PCB contamination.

SPREP's report says waste oil had been a major problem in the region for decades and it was now estimated that 10.5 million liters of waste oil has been generated, mostly from power generation, motor vehicles and fishing vessels.

"The need for environmentally acceptable disposal procedures has largely been ignored, and where governments have had powers to ensure that such procedures are in place, they have frequently failed to enforce them," the report said.

In Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) thousands of liters of waste oil are burned in an open pit.

On Betio in Kiribati people depend on ground water.

"Generators at the power station have been leaking oil. . . (and) the clean up is urgently needed."

Medical waste management in the Pacific was "seriously deficient....

"Little attention is paid to segregation of wastes, storage and transportation is shoddy, and there are many hospital incinerators in a poor state of repair, or completely inoperative."

SPREP explored a jungle site in Palau.

"The sites contain hundreds, if not thousands, of small vials... of coloured liquids and powders. The material was reportedly disposed by Japanese troops at the end of WWII. One of the few legible labels identified a group of vials as being a Japanese disinfectant."

Michael Field New Zealand/South Pacific Correspondent Agence France-Presse E-mail: afp.nz@clear.net.nz  Phone: (64 21) 688438 Fax: (64 21) 694035 Website: http://www.afp.com/english/ 

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