SHIP CONTAMINATED WASTE BACK TO U.S. MAINLAND, SAIPAN ISLANDERS PETITION

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By Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (March 7, 2001 - Marianas Variety/PINA Nius Online)---A contaminated Northern Marianas village is circulating an island-wide petition for the shipment to the U.S. of all polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) wastes taken from the island.

At least 4,000 non-residents of Tanapag are expected to affix their signatures on the petition to convey their support to the villagers’ united stand.

They are against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed on-site treatment and destruction of PCB wastes.

PCBs are a cancer-causing man-made chemical. There has been continuing controversy over their presence in the Tanapag area on Saipan and their effects on local people.

The United States Department of Defense used PCB in a radar station in the area in the 1960s.

Juan I. Tenorio, chairman of the Tanapag Action Group, said:

"The PCB issue is not confined to the village of Tanapag. This is a concern of everybody. We respectfully request Saipan residents to stand behind Tanapag villagers’ decision, so that the environment and health of the entire people of the CNMI will be protected."

The petition will then be sent to Christine Whitman, the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C., and to Gale Norton, the new Secretary of the Interior.

"We strongly believe that this off-island treatment and disposal is the best option available to the well being and health of the people of Tanapag," the petition partly reads.

The Army Corps of Engineers, along with its contractor, Hawai‘i-based Environmental Chemical Corp., is proposing to treat and dispose the PCB contaminated soil on site. The effectiveness of the process it plans to use has been questioned.

No final decision has been reached yet on the treatment and disposal methods that will be used on some 20,000 tons of PCB contaminated soil.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has called on residents to help identify unmarked graves at the cemetery near the Tanapag Elementary School to prepare the area for further excavations.

With the possibility of digging deeper into the cemetery site, the Army Corps said human bones might accidentally be unearthed and destroyed in the process, due to the unmarked graves.

Frank Ono of the Army Corps said the PCB contamination in Tanapag has become "wider" and "deeper" as they continue their excavation and remediation works.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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