Unwanted garbage may, at last, find Fla. home
MIAMI - The last of a pile of unwanted trash turned away by governments worldwide and stranded at sea since Ronald Reagan was president may finally receive a welcome close to South Floridas most popular tourist beaches.
State environmental officials approved on Thursday a plan to re-burn the 3,000-tonne heap of garbage, which is currently sitting on a barge near central Florida, and dispose of the fresh ashes in a landfill near Ft. Lauderdale.
But the plan drew protests on Friday from both environmental and county activists, who said the waste was hazardous since it contains toxic metals.
"This will release whatever heavy metals are contained in that ash and disperse them in the environment," said Ann Leonard, co-director of Essential Action, an international environmental group that has run a project called Return to Sender for years to get the trash sent back to where it originated.
The trash has been spurned by governments including Bermuda, Puerto Rico and Singapore, and rejected in US states such as Georgia, Ohio and Virginia. It is a small chunk of what was once a 15,000-tonne mound of incinerated municipal waste from Philadelphia.
Government officials in 1986 signed a contract with a company to ship the material elsewhere after tensions in the labor force caused the closing of a Philadelphia city landfill, according to a statement issued on Thursday by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
To be dumped on distant shores, the garbage sailed on a vessel called the Khian Sea for two years before it was accepted by officials in the Caribbean nation of Haiti. Those officials thought the ashes were a gigantic pile of fertilizer, the statement said.
Papers showed that over a decade, mariners dumped at least 4,000 tonnes of what used to be beer bottles, newspapers and old shoes on the countrys northern shores.
But then Haiti halted the dumping and the Khian raised anchor. The master of the ship later admitted to dumping some of the ashes into the Atlantic and Indian oceans during its travels.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection says the waste has been tested several times and proved to be safe. "We do believe this is a suitable plan that will put the problem to rest once and for all," said Don Payne, a spokesman for Waste Management Inc., which will carry out the incineration in a Pompano Beach plant.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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