West dumps toxic waste on Poland, Greenpeace says

October 12, 1990|By Kay Withers | Kay Withers,Special to The Sun

WARSAW, Poland -- The environmental organization Greenpeace accused the West yesterday of exploiting Poland's recently opened borders to dump huge quantities of toxic waste.

Greenpeace activists called on the Polish authorities to protest vociferously to the governments involved.

A Greenpeace report, released simultaneously in Warsaw and Brussels, Belgium, said the Poles had been "swiftly rewarded" for opening their borders to Western industry.

The 45-page study detailed 63 cases of attempts by Western countries in the last two years to foist hazardous wastes on Poland.

"Since 1989, 22 million tons of toxic waste have been offered to Poland," the report said. "Of that total, over 46,000 tons of toxic waste have actually crossed the open borders from countries

like West Germany, Austria and Sweden."

The wastes included solvents and other liquid chemicals, metal waste and electronic scrap, radioactive wastes, sewage and river sludge and incineration residues.

"The waste is threatening various drinking-water sources and is stored in unsafe conditions," the report said. "One worker has already been killed after an entire shed with drums of poison exploded."

Polish law in general bans the import of wastes, but what Greenpeace termed "a grave loophole" allows waste material for "recycling." The Greenpeace report cited an Austrian exporter, IAV, which allegedly exported to Poland barrels mislabeled as recyclable varnish and solvent residues. "The barrels actually contained cyanamide, highly chlorinated solvents and PCB oils," Greenpeace said.

The report listed 72 foreign corporations dumping wastes in Poland through 43 Polish counter parts. They included Germany's Siemens A.G., Sweden's Volvo A.B. and the U.S. Army depot in Gruenstadt, Germany.

The only two U.S.-based firms named were 3M, which Greenpeace said tried unsuccessfully to unload used plastic, and Raremin California, accused of trying to dump 17 million tons of toxic sludge and infectious and radioactive wastes.

The coordinator of Greenpeace's waste-trade department, Jim Puckett, urged Warsaw to protest to the exporting governments, especially the European Economic Community, much as did BTC African and Caribbean nations that were previous targets for waste exporters. Greenpeace is urging the EEC to ban all waste exports.

Mr. Puckett accused the EEC of "a stunning display of hypocrisy" in its attitude to the former Soviet bloc countries, saying that on the one hand it was helping the East European countries clean up their wastes, but on the other hand it was adding to them.

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