The Multinational Monitor


G L O B A L   S I G H T I N G S

Bahamas Foils Toxic Dumping Plan

The Bahamas may be a tax haven for multinationals, but it won't be a dumpsite for their toxic wastes. A Birmingham, Alabama waste disposal company, Ashvins U.S.A. Inc., contracted with a private Bahamian firm to dump hazardous chemical wastes in that tiny island country, but was told no-go by the government there.

The government of the Bahamas announced refusal of Ashvins' plans last month. `They did not get approval because we don't go for anything like that," says Patricia Rogers, counsellor of the Bahamas' Washington Embassy.

Ashvins' initial shipment, scheduled to leave the States by the middle of February, was to have been between 1,100 and 1,500 barrels of wastes from pesticide, paint, and metal-plating companies, said Ashvins' director of public relations John Smith. Smith would not say how many shipments were to be made.

The Ashvins episode is just another in the continuing search by U.S. companies for toxic waste dumping grounds outside of their home country.

Last January, for instance, the Nedlog Co. of Colorado negotiated to ship up to a million tons of chemical wastes to Sierra Leone and two other West African countries. That deal - fell through when Sierra Leone president Siaka Stevens backed down under a barrage of criticism.

The rebuff from the Bahamian government has not stopped Ashvins from hunting out other tropical disposal kites. And, given the great need for foreign exchange in many developing countries, Ashvins and other waste disposal companies are likely to find some takers, despite possible risks to groundwater supplies and the environment.

According to Smith, his company is presently in contact with local business people in several Caribbean countries and has, in fact, been approached by some of them.

"Certainly we'll have some takers," Smith said. "We are dealing with private enterprises and they are interested in developing the [waste disposal] business."

There is no U.S. legislation prohibiting the export of toxic wastes. The only regulations bearing on such practices are those accompanying the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) which took effect in November 1980. RCRA requires any U.S. company shipping hazardous wastes to notify the Environmental Protection Agency four weeks prior to initial shipment, and disclose to whom_ they are shipping and what substances. are contained in ' the shipment. The State Department then notifies the government of the receiving country.

Neither the State Department nor the EPA, however, is empowered to halt shipments to any country that has accepted the wastes. "At the present time we would not be able to do that because there are no regulations," said Sue Peterson of the State Department's office of environment and health. "We could try to use our powers of persuasion but that's all we could do."

Ashvins broke no law in its efforts to dump toxic wastes in the Bahamas, a fact of which the company is proud. "All the State Department asks is that we notify them,",'_ said Ashvins' Smith. "And we're following the rules to the letter."

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