Unwanted PCB waste leaves Canada, returns to Japan
VANCOUVER - A 110-tonne shipment of toxic U.S. military waste from bases in Japan was headed back across the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, having been rejected by the United States and Canada amid protests by environmentalists.
Two inflatable boats belonging to environmental group Greenpeace, which led protests against the shipment, escorted the container ship Wan He as it departed Vancouvers port shortly after noon (1930GMT).
The 14 containers of discarded transformers and other electrical equipment were expected to be unloaded at the ships next scheduled stop in Japan, but it remained unclear what the Pentagon would eventually do with the material laced with cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
The waste was originally destined for a processing facility in the Canadian province of Ontario, but local authorities blocked it from entering the country after environmentalists complained that Canada could become a dumping ground for foreign toxic waste.
The Pentagon then attempted to have the Wan He unload the containers at the Port of Seattle but a United States law prohibits foreign-made PCBs from entering the country, even if owned by the U.S. government.
Banned since 1977 as a cancer risk, PCBs are a family of chemical compounds formerly used as a coolant and insulation for electrical equipment.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had granted a permit to temporarily store the containers in Seattle, but longshoremen heeded a request from environmentalists and refused to unload the cargo.
The Pentagon and its Canadian disposal contractor, Trans-Cycle Industries, insist that the PCB content in the shipment is extremely low and no more dangerous than that in refrigerators and other equipment routinely handled by disposal crews.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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