Mercury waste dumped in Spain

Wednesday, May 1, 1991

WASHINGTON — Greenpeace's campaign against waste exports has revealed that two more New Jersey companies have shipped highly toxic mercury wastes abroad, this time for burial in the rolling farmlands of Spain.

From 1986 to 1987, Cosan Chemical shipped over 60,000 pounds of highly toxic organic and mercury wastes to Spain. Troy Chemical Corp has shipped at least 66 tons of waste to Spain since 1981.

For more than a year, the Greenpeace waste trade campaign has been battling mercury waste shipments to South Africa from another New Jersey facility, American Cyanamid's Bridgewater plant.

Between 1980 and 1987, at least 25 companies, including Cosan and Troy, from 10 countries shipped over 11,000 tons mercury-contaminated wastes to the remote rural district of central Spain, where the wastes were dumped on the property of a Spanish government-owned company.

When Cosan exported mercury wastes in 1986 and 1987, it claimed that the wastes would be recycled by the Spanish company. This never occurred, and the waste barrels were simply stored on the ground for years.

The Spanish government recently decided to bury the barrels. The dump is located in an area designated by the European Community as an important bird protection area, and the waste dump is dangerously close to water courses which drain into nearby rivers.

Samples obtained by Greenpeace of the dump site revealed the presence of many deadly compounds that present severe threats to the environment and health of villagers living nearby.

Mercury is one of the most dangerous substances that can threaten the aquatic environment. It is acutely toxic, causing nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, kidney damage and death. It is also chronically toxic, causing inflammation of mouth and gums, loosening of teeth, kidney damage, muscle spasms, depression and insanity.

Greenpeace noted that over 83 countries now ban waste trade, but waste traders are attempting to avoid these bans under the cover of "recycling". "Waste traders are now cynically abusing the word and using it to justify dangerous recovery enterprises and dumping schemes", it said. — Greenpeace/PEGASUS

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