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#3619: The cursed cargo of the Khian Sea (fwd)


Hopes for ash dashed.  The cursed cargo of the Khian Sea 
The search goes on.And on. And on. PHILADELPHIA May 13 2000

 The load of municipal-incinerator ash that left Philadelphia in 1988
and then spent 12 years sitting on a Haitian beach is still seeking its
final resting place.At the moment, the nearly 2,000 tons of cinders and
grit - which was dumped in Haiti by the freighter Khian Sea and
retrieved last month - are sitting in a large hopper barge in      
Stuart, Fla.Waste Management Inc.,which inherited the problem, has
agreed to bury it in one of its landfills.But where? Early last week,
Georgia officially rejected the ash. The state said it was concerned
that its hog population might risk exposure to swine fever. "They have
hog cholera in Haiti," said State Agricultural Commissioner Tommy Irvin.
"We just can't afford to take the chance of having that virus
reintroduced into our environment."  Then late in the week, when word
came that Waste Management's facility in Lake Charles, La., was a
candidate, the Louisiana legislature snapped into action. The Louisiana
Senate passed a resolution, 25-1, calling for a ban of the ash in the
state.The resolution was sent to the state Department of Environmental
Protection."We just don't want it," said State Sen. Willie Mount, who
represents Lake Charles and was a sponsor of the resolution. p"It's been
sitting there in Haiti for years and we really don't know what's in it,"
she said.  Well, actually we do have an idea. In March 1988, both the
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources and the federal
Environmental Protection Agency tested the ash.They determined that,
while there were traces of heavy metals in the waste material,        
there was not enough to make it hazardous. Before the ash left Haiti
last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture even insisted           
that the heap be sprayed with a fumigant to ensure that no bugs,
microbes or fungi were carried back to the United States in the ash.  
And two weeks ago, after the ash arrived in Florida, the Florida
Department of  Environment Protection also tested it.
The Florida DEP determined that there were still small traces of heavy
metals in the ash - and that it still was not hazardous. "It's
ridiculous because all these facilities accept larger quantities of the
very same type of waste every day," said Ken Bruno, an organizer with
the Washington-based Earth Rights Institute. "But it hasn't been tested
for everything," said Louisiana's Mount. "If it's so safe, why has there
been such a problem of disposing of the material?"                   
The answer - to put it in Cajun terms - is bad mojo.
When the Khian Sea left Philadelphia in the fall of 1986 with nearly
15,000 tons of incinerator ash, W. Wilson Goode was mayor and he had
high approval ratings.The city was burning municipal trash at two
incinerators, one in Roxborough and another on Delaware Avenue, and
landfill costs were soaring. A private contractor, Joseph Paolino &
Sons, was hired to get rid of the incinerator ash.Paolino, in turn, had
contracted with a company that was going to make use of the ash in     
the Bahamas.But the Khian Sea was already on its way when the Bahamas
deal fell through.Then followed a series of failed attempts to strike
deals in the Dominican Republic,Bermuda, Honduras and Chile.           
Some Haitian businessmen finally agreed to unload the ash in the remote
port of Gonaives. It was going to be used as fertilizer. But a public
furor over American garbage being left in a Third World country led the
Haitian government to order the Khian Sea to leave. It did so, but left
about 2,000 tons sitting on the beach at Gonaives.Like the Flying
Dutchman, the ship wandered the seas from Africa to Asia looking for a 
place to get rid of the ash.The crew finally dumped the remaining 13,000
tons into the Atlantic and Indian Oceans,according to testimony from the
ship's captain, Arturo Fuentes. Meanwhile, the ash pile in Haiti became
a cause célèbre for environmentalists and a bane to Philadelphia.      
In 1997, the Paolino company, which had changed its name to Eastern
Environmental Services, applied for a trash-hauling license in New York
City, but the city's Waste Trade Commission refused to grant it unless
the Haitian ash was cleaned up.When Waste Management acquired Eastern
Environmental, it also acquired the Haitian ash heap. "We are trying to
get everything organized and approved before we make a move,"William
Plunkett, a Waste Management spokesman, said this week.Plunkett declined
to identify which facilities were being considered.But he said that
Waste Management was focusing, for logistical and price reasons, on 
facilities in the Southeast and South, close to the waiting ash barge in
Stuart.Considering the 14-year saga, it is no wonder Waste Management is
being circumspect.Kris McFadden, a spokesman for the Florida DEP, said:
"If everyone realized that this isn't hazardous, just typical solid
waste, it wouldn't be such a problem." But what about its mojo? "If
there's no problem," asked Louisiana's Mount, "then why doesn't
Philadelphia just take it back?"