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SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (January 28, 2001 - Saipan Tribune/PINA Nius Online)---A ruling allowing shipments of polychlorinated biphenyl-contaminated (PCB) materials from U.S. Pacific territories to the mainland United States for disposal has been delayed.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will not be able to implement its earlier ruling until it is cleared by the new Bush administration in Washington.

Guam Representative Robert Underwood earlier announced that the newly signed EPA rule gives the go-ahead signal to American territories outside the U.S. Customs Zone to ship PCBs to disposal facilities on the mainland U.S. The rule specifically mentioned Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

According to Michelle Rogow, EPA on-location coordinator in Saipan, the EPA office in Washington informed EPA about the decision of the Bush administration to put on hold all rules that were signed by the Clinton administration just before the change in government.

In addition, the new EPA rule was not even published in the Federal Register, a requirement before the implementation of any regulation. It was put on hold pending a thorough review to be conducted by the Bush administration.

The Environmental Chemical Corp., U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contractor, has been conducting remediation activities at a Tanapag, Saipan cemetery and various sites in the village. This took place after they were found to have high PCB contamination.

According to Juan Tenorio, one of the leaders of the Tanapag Action Group, all of the residents in the village have unanimously voted for the shipment of PCB contaminated soil instead of conducting the treatment in Tanapag.

He said the unified stand of the villagers already has been relayed to the U.S. EPA and the Army Corps officials in a recent meeting.

Treatment of the soil is set to begin early this year using the low indirect thermal desorption process, but the new developments may altogether change the original plan.

The EPA and Army Corps have set the cleanup level in the contaminated sites at 1 ppm, which is considered safe for human health.

PCBs have been found to cause cancer. People who have been exposed to the toxic chemical in the air for a long time have also experienced nose, lung and skin irritations, such as ace and rashes, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

PCBs were contained in abandoned electrical capacitors in Tanapag in the 1960s, when the island was part of the United States Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. But the Division of Environmental Quality was only notified about the presence of the capacitors in 1988.

The capacitors have been used as boundary markers, roadblocks for driveways, windbreakers for barbecue sites and headstones.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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