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#3344: The Haitian People Achieve Environmental Justice for Earth Day (fwd)
Release Date: April 22, 2000
Contact: Michelle Karshan, Foreign Press Liaison for President Rene Preval
THE HAITIAN PEOPLE ACHIEVE ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE FOR EARTH DAY
Port-au-Prince, Haiti - On April 5, 2000, the Philadelphia municipal
incinerator ash, which was illegally dumped in Haiti in 1988, was finally
removed from Gonaives. Today, Earth Day, the ash was unloaded onto a barge
for secure temporary storage in the United States. At a later date the
receivers of the ash will move it to a permanent storage place. This ash
made world news in 1988 when the ship, Khian Sea, circled the ocean for 17
months in search of a country to accept their cargo. Haiti's military regime
in power at that time and headed by General Namphy, accepted the cargo in
direct violation of the 1987 Haitian Constitution which prohibits the import
of hazardous waste. President Rene Preval demonstrated his commitment to
the removal process by coordinating and partially financing its efforts.
Early on an aggressive mobilization was waged on many fronts demanding
nothing short of the removal of the alleged toxic ash back to the United
States. On the international level Greenpeace and Essential Action played
key roles in advocating for the swift removal of the ash and locally COPEDHA,
a coalition of several Haiti-based organizations, demanded justice for the
people of Gonaives. Their combined efforts bore fruit recently culminating in
today's victory with the completion of the removal process.
The NY Trade Waste Commission, the entity that regulates commercial waste
disposal in New York City, obtained the agreement of Waste Management Inc.
and the City of Philadelphia to contribute towards a removal of the ash.
(Waste Management Inc. had purchased the company that originally took the ash
from Philadelphia.) For background information on the various stages leading
up to this recent phase, please see the section entitled Project Return to
Sender at http://www.Essentialaction.org.
The removal process took almost a year and required extensive cooperation
between many entities. The Office of the President of Haiti oversaw the
efforts, and financed part of the work. The Ministry of Environment,
especially Director General Daniel Brisard and Departmental Director for the
Artibonite Valley, Namphy Joseph, assured that the Haitian environment was
fully protected during the work, and that all environmental dangers were
removed. A team of workers in Gonaives under the direction of Kenol Noel
worked long hours under the hot sun for 5 months to make sure that the
material was correctly treated and that all of it left Haiti. The USDA
monitored treatment was completed in late March. Equipment for the project
was provided by Haiti's Public Works Ministry (TPTC). The Office of
International Lawyers, a Haitian government team of attorneys, coordinated
the efforts in Haiti, along with Ira Kurzban, the U.S. based attorney for the
Republic of Haiti. Together they coordinated with the various entities in
The U.S. Department of Agriculture developed and supervised the protocol for
treating the ash, and certified that it was safe for disposal in a landfill
in the U.S. The NY Trade Waste Commission managed the U.S. financial
contribution and the negotiations for a disposal site.
The last stage of this process was actualized by Arpin and John Hall who
oversaw the loading of the ash onto his ship, departing from Gonaives on
April 5, 2000, and the eventual unloading - 17 days later - in the United
States onto a barge for temporary storage and its coastwise delivery to a
waste management disposal site.
This victory of environmental justice is a victory for all poor nations
struggling to protect their countries from becoming dumping grounds.
Ira Kurzban, Esq., Attorney for the Government of Haiti: 305-444-0060
Daniel Brisard, Ministry of Environment: (011509) 245-0635, 7585
Namphy Joseph, Departmental Director for Artibonite: (011509) 274-1078
Russell Bixler, NY Trade Waste Commission: 212-676-6307
Terry English, USDA: 919-693-5151
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