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BAN/Greenpeace Press Release

TORONTO/SEATTLE, 31 August 2000 -- Greenpeace and the Basel Action Network (BAN) have discovered that earlier this month, the United States Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) sent a mission to Ottawa to explore whether or not Canada could possibly dispose of the very same toxic PCB wastes previously rejected by the Government of Ontario, Environment Canada and the Port of Vancouver.

Representatives of Environment Canada and the U.S. DLA have indicated that, as a result of that meeting, Canada failed to categorically disallow import of the wastes to Canada.

The previously rejected PCB wastes now sit in 23 containers on the tiny U.S. military-controlled Wake Island in the Pacific.

“It is a shock to us that Canada continues to prop open the door for PCB wastes coming from the United States, while the United States refuses to allow any imports of PCB waste whatsoever. Environment Minister David Anderson should stop merely expressing concern about Canada becoming a global “pollution haven” and recognize that it is already seen as such by the world’s largest waste producing nation the United States,” said Peter Tabuns, Greenpeace Canada executive director. “Canada must set a policy of not accepting PCB waste imports from the United States immediately.”

In a letter to Minister Anderson, Greenpeace and BAN are calling for a categorical policy to disallow PCB waste imports into Canada from the United States. Further they are calling for the waste to be brought into the United States by special exemption to the US import ban but only under the condition that they not be incinerated but rather processed in alternative destruction facilities which do not produce the toxic by-products of dioxins and furans which are even more toxic than the PCBs themselves.

“These are U.S. wastes, which should be destroyed by the United States, but only in a responsible way not by burning them in some community where the dioxins will be inhaled by local residents,” said Jim Puckett of the Seattle-based Basel Action Network (BAN), a global waste transport watchdog group. “This waste is the tip of a toxic iceberg and like all of the world’s PCB stockpiles, the newer, non-combustion destruction techniques must be employed to rid the planet of this persistent pollutant.”

According to the environmentalists, the U.S. military is already employing such technologies in the United States on an experimental basis and the original contractor for this consignment, Trans-Cycle Industries of Alabama and Kirkland Lake, Ontario, has denounced incineration as an environmentally sound disposal option.

For more information contact:

Peter Tabuns, Executive Director, Greenpeace Canada (416) 597-8408

Jim Puckett, Basel Action Network (206) 720-6426


VIA FACSIMILE - (613) 952-1458

August 31, 2000

The Honourable David Anderson
Minister of the Environment
133 East Block
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Dear Minister Anderson:

It has come to our attention that, once again, Canada is being viewed as the global dumping ground by the U.S. Defense Department for the toxic PCB wastes originating in U.S. defense bases in Japan that they attempted to import into Canada earlier this year and which were at that time rejected. We have learned that earlier this month a meeting took place between officials of Environment Canada, and legal and technical experts of the United States Defense Logistics Agency. The purpose of the meeting was to explore the possibility of Canada taking the waste in question. And the stated outcome of this meeting according to Canadian official Charles Cormier and U.S. official Bruce deGrazia, was that Canada did not rule out the possibility that they would accept the waste.

The Basel Action Network and Greenpeace condemn the purpose and outcome of this meeting and urge you to categorically reject the import of this proposed waste import for eventual incineration of this PCB waste for the following reasons:

a) This waste is by definition under the Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, a United States waste.

b) This waste is a hazardous waste under the Basel Convention. Even if (as claimed) the PCBs are in concentrations below 50 parts per million (and there is much doubt as to this being the case), the waste will contain dioxins and furans which will define this waste as a Basel hazardous waste. As the United States is not a party to the Basel Convention, while Canada is, use would need to be made of the special bilateral agreement between the United States and Canada signed on October 28, 1986, under Article 11 of the Basel Convention (Basel Articles 4, para 5, and Article 11).

c) However, the obligations of the Basel Convention (Basel Convention, Article 4, para 9) on Canada will still require that wastes will only be allowed for export if (a) the State of export does not have the technical capacity and the necessary facilities, capacity or suitable disposal sites in order to dispose of the wastes in question in an environmentally sound and efficient manner; or (b) The waste in question are required as a raw material for recycling or recovery industries in the state of import. As it is certain that PCBs are not to be recycled and it is absolutely certain that the United States does possess the adequate technical capacity for dealing with the wastes themselves, we maintain that this proposed import by Canada is in conflict with the Basel Convention.

d) Even if the United States claims that due to their internal legislation (the Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA) which bans imports of foreign manufactured PCB waste) they are unable to find adequate disposal facilities, the fact remains that the United States has access to technologies that can destroy the PCB waste (without resort to dangerous incineration technologies) on site in Wake Island or alternatively by seeking an exemption to their TSCA rules and accomplishing this safer method of disposal in the United States mainland. TSCA explicitly allows for such exemptions.

e) Canada has enough problems with their own hazardous wastes and loadings of dioxin which are inevitable during PCB incineration. As the United States has an import ban on PCBs for the protection of their environment, so too should Canada. Further, Canada will not be doing the United States any favors if it allows them to continue to avoid solving their own waste disposal problems.

f) The most appropriate solution for this waste is for it to be processed and destroyed at source utilizing non-combustion technologies now available commercially. If it proves unrealistic to accomplish at-source destruction due to the movement of this waste to Wake Island, then we would ask that the waste be imported into the United States via the TSCA exemption process for non-combustion alternatives.

g) Indeed the original contractor for the disposal of this waste -- Trans-Cycle Industries (TCI) which has a facility in Alabama, USA, has agreed to only utilize non-combustion disposal services in future.

For all of the above reasons, we urge the Canadian federal government to state that at the earliest opportunity they will not accept this or any other consignment of United States PCB waste. We will be contacting you very soon to receive your response to this letter.

Sincerely yours,

Jim Puckett, Basel Action Network

Darryl Luscombe, Greenpeace International

Peter Tabuns, Greenpeace Canada

FAIR USE NOTICE. This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The Basel Action Network is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability and environmental justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a `fair use' of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond `fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. 
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