The Multinational Monitor


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Poison Pushers

A new report from Greenpeace cites the Tennessee based Velsicol Chemical Corporation as a prime example of why the nation's pesticide laws must be overhauled. Velsicol is the planet's one and only producer of chlordane and heptachlor, a pair of notorious pesticides banned in the United States. Despite the U.S. ban which followed a finding by the Environmental Protection Agency that the two products are probable human carcinogens and are highly persistent and accumulative in

the food chain, Velsicol has manufactured approximately 5 million pounds of the pesticides over the last two years for export to at least 25 countries.

In the process, Greenpeace reports, the corporation has violated the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization's voluntary code of conduct with regard to pesticide distribution and has put countless consumers and agricultural workers overseas at risk. Velsicol sees things a bit differently. According to Donna Jennings, Velsicol's manager of public affairs, Velsicol does not "believe [that] the United States should make these kinds of decisions, nor should Greenpeace, without offering viable alternatives."

Velsicol has also done its share of damage at home. In 1987, Greenpeace claims, the firm released approximately 660,000 pounds of highly toxic chemicals, including chlordane, heptachlor and carbon tetrachloride, into the air at plants in Marshall, Ill. and Memphis, Tenn. The company's practices have contributed to, and probably caused, contamination to such an extent that at least three sites where Velsicol's pesticide wastes have been implicated are now Superfund sites, Greenpeace activists claim. Greenpeace also suspects the company of causing serious harm to water quality in the Memphis region. The city of Memphis allows Velsicol to dump toxic waste from its manufacturing operations into the local sewer system, despite the fact that the system is not designed to handle toxic chemicals. "Consequently," concludes the Green-peace report, "Velsicol's waterborne chemical wastes are discharged into the Mississippi River, evaporated into the air, or deposited in the sewage sludge which the treatment plant stores in an unlined landfill right next to the river bank .... At least 75 miles of three rivers in the Memphis and Hardemann County area (where Velsicol and two of its three Superfund sites are located) are posted against fish consumption due to chlordane contamination."

Such practices persist because of a loophole in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act which permits the production and export of pesticides prohibited for use in the United States. "We would ultimately like to show regulators that they cannot turn a blind eye to the problems of the export-only loophole," says Sandra Marquardt, Greenpeace's pesticide information coordinator. Publicizing Velsicol's careless behavior, Greenpeace hopes, will increase the pressure on Congress to end the double standard which allows chemicals banned for domestic use to be exported, primarily to the Third World.

1987-1989 (in pounds)

Importing NationChlordane Heptachlor
Argentina 3,536 328,991
3,356 (T) 229,484 (T)
Australia 21,216 (T) 489,656
- 128,818 (T)
Belgium - 37,022
Brazil - 123,600
- 56,856 (T)
Columbia 23,868 -
Costa Rica - 41,200 (T)
Dominican Republic 15,118 1,596
Finland 40,788 (T) -
40,788 -
Guatemala 22,652 -
33,990 (T)-
India 8,398 117,136
1,326 (T) -
Indonesia 13,620 -
Israel - 6,798 (T)
Ivory Coast - 38,537
Jamaica 4248 -
Republic of Korea 84,864 (T) -
Malaysia - 29,600
Netherlands 127,296 254,334
169,728 (T) 323,833 (T)
Pakistan - 31,826 (T)
Peru - 20,600
Philippines 127,440 11,691
- 11,691 (T)
Singapore 722,333 164,800
Thailand 21,658 115,841
42,145 (T) -
Trinidad 10,456 -
Grand total1,538,8242,661769

(T) � designated "technical grade" (unformulated).

Note: The list above includes only the original point of destination for Velsicol's products. Because of trans-shipments, the ultimate number of importing countries is reportedly almost double the number listed. Also since Velsicol or its shipper does not always list the name or the grade of the product it is exporting on forms on which the source depends, the figures may actually be much larger.

Source: The Journal of Commerce Import/Export Reporting Service (PIERS) database, January 1987- June 1989, as cited in "Exporting Banned Pesticides" by Greenpeace.

Crud on the Tracks

Amtrak may be approaching the end of the line as far as its current sewage disposal practices are concerned. For years now, the company has routinely dumped human waste from its passenger trains directly onto the railway tracks or compressed the waste and sprayed it along railway beds beside the tracks. It has done so over the protests of environmentalists concerned about the ecological effects of the untreated waste and of railway workers who are directly victimized by the practice. One labor official said, "I have personally witnessed this system of dumping many, many times at speeds ranging from 0 to 60 miles per hour and can truthfully say that the higher the speed, the worse the problem. At lower speeds the effluent is distributed at somewhat of a controlled flow to the ground below. At higher speeds, there is virtually no escaping it as it is sent into the air in the form of a fine mist. As you can imagine, the stench left behind at any speed is overwhelming."

The tide, however, may be turning against Amtrak, which argues that it cannot afford the cost of fitting its passenger trains with sewage holding tanks. "We don't feel we can both operate trains and properly dispose o human waste," says Cliff Black, manager of public affair for Amtrak. A state attorney in Florida has filed a criminal action against the rail company charging it with felonious commercial littering. The charge reportedly stemmed( from complaints by fishermen in Putnam County, Flor ida, where several prime county fishing holes are locate( beneath Amtrak trestles. Apparently the fishermen an frequently doused when Amtrak passenger trains pas overhead.

Amtrak executives responded to the criminal action by pleading not guilty and threatening to cut off passen ger service in Florida unless the prosecution is dropped The state attorney, however, considers the threat an idle bluff.

In any event, Amtrak may soon have to repeat the threat in as many as five other states presently consider ing ways to curb the company's dumping practices. On of those, Oregon, has already fined Amtrak once and i contemplating further action. Oregon's enforcement of forts are based on a newly-passed state measure, dubbed appropriately enough, the "Choo-Choo Poo-Poo" Act which forbids the type of dumping Amtrak has beer committing.

Hammer Un-nailed

After years of unsuccessful remonstration, Armand Hammer, the founder and CEO of Occidental Petroleum, has finally been granted a presidential pardon for his 1976 conviction on three Watergate-related misdemeanors involving illegal campaign contributions. Just days after President Bush issued the pardon in August, however, an unusual disagreement over the meaning of the gesture surfaced between Hammer's attorneys and White House officials.

Hammer's lawyers bragged to reporters that the par-don is a "singular event in U.S. pardon history" because the 91 year-old industrialist flew in the face of tradition by refusing to apologize for his crimes or even concede his guilt in the first place. The White House does not agree. "The

President has accepted Armand Hammer's acknowledgment of guilt, and his years of service to the community," an official told the Los Angeles Times. "It was made very clear to Dr. Hammer that he had to express remorse. Oh, he tried to do it in an ambiguous way, of course, sort of cutesy. But he did it."

This battle stems from some very strange circumstances. In 1975, Hammer pleaded guilty to charges that he made $54,000 in illegal contributions to Richard Nixon's 1972 re-election campaign. Despite having entered a guilty plea, Hammer continued to profess his innocence by arguing that intermediaries had made the illegal contributions without his knowledge and that his lawyers had pressured him into pleading guilty. When the judge handling the case heard of Hammer's protestations, he ordered the matter back into court. And in 1976, Hammer again pleaded guilty to the very same charges. He was sentenced a year's probation and ordered to pay a $3,000 fine.

Still, Hammer persisted. As soon as he could, he began to lobby the White House, not for a "garden variety" pardon based on remorse, but for a very special pardon that would recognize Hammer's claims of innocence. Eventually, it became clear that such a request was not going to be granted, and last May, Hammer broke down and wrote to the Justice Department that he was changing his "request for a pardon based on innocence to one seeking a conventional pardon." Shortly thereafter, Bush granted the request.

So it is on to the next battle for the Occidental chief. His goal now is supposedly to win a Nobel peace prize in recognition of his role in promoting U.S.-Soviet relations. Hammer apparently believes that his Watergate conviction was the major obstacle preventing him from being so honored. The energetic "spin control" efforts of his attorneys in explaining to reporters the singular nature of Hammer's presidential pardon may well be the first phase of the Nobel campaign.

� Garth Bray

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