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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
e-mail:  mkarshan@aol.com


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.

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.  

Contact Info:

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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