Toxic U.S. waste leaves Japan for Wake Island
TOKYO - A shipment of toxic U.S. military waste that has been refused entry in Canada and the United States left a Japanese port bound for remote Wake Island, Yokohama city officials said on Sunday.
A U.S cargo ship left Yokohama port on Saturday with 100 tonnes of waste, originating from U.S. military bases in Japan and containing carcinogenic polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, for temporary storage in the U.S. territory in the central Pacific.
The toxic waste arrived back in Japan in April after a Pacific odyssey that saw it refused entry in Canada and the United States.
"The waste PCB to be shipped from Japan resulted from ongoing efforts by U.S. military forces to make its installations PCB-free, worldwide," the U.S. Embassy in Japan said earlier this month.
The waste will remain at Wake Island until a final disposal site is determined. The U.S. Army has a missile launch support facility on the tiny Pacific island about 2,000 miles (3,200 km) from Hawaii, it said.
The U.S. government had been considering sending the PCB-contaminated trash to remote Johnston Island, a wildlife refuge about 700 miles (1,126 km) southwest of Hawaii, that is home to nesting seabirds and rare seals.
The waste consists of surplus electrical transformers, circuit breakers and other electrical equipment that contain traces of PCBs.
Environmental protection group Greenpeace accused the United States of trying to "hide toxic PCB waste on a Pacific atoll island."
Greenpeace said that the United States was planning long-term storage at Wake Island, "without any concrete plans to treat the waste in an environmentally responsible way."
The chemicals have been banned by numerous countries since 1977 as a cancer risk and their manufacture is prohibited in the United States.
The shipment left Japan in March, but dockworkers and government officials in Vancouver and Seattle refused to accept it last month. That forced the military to send the waste back to Yokohama, where it had been in limbo and the target of protests by environmental activists.
U.S. law prohibits foreign-originated PCBs from entering the country, even if they are owned by the U.S. government.
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.
Story by Jon Herskovitz
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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