"Unloading this shipment of toxic waste is in clear violation of U.S. law," said Patti Goldman, an attorney with Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, which is representing the environmental groups. "It is outrageous that the Port of Seattle, the Defense Department, and private shipping companies are so deliberately flouting the law."
A U.S. law prohibits the import of PCBs, extremely toxic wastes linked to cancer and genetic deformities. The Coast Guard threatened to impose penalties against the container company on April 4, 2000. While the Environmental Protection Agency confirmed that unloading the waste violates federal law, instead of turning the ship away, it announced that it would not take enforcement action if the wastes were unloaded at the Port of Seattle.
The environmental groups announced today that they will step in where EPA has deliberately ignored the violation of this safeguard against entry of toxic wastes into this country.
"PCB imports pose a grave risk to coastal waters, fisheries, and public health," said Jane Williams of the Sierra Club's National Waste Committee. "Canada and the Port of Vancouver turned these poisons away -- why didn't we?"
"The people of Seattle have had no say in whether PCBs will enter our Port," said David Batker of Asia Pacific Environmental Exchange. "When something as toxic as PCBs is entering our environment, our elected officials should be more careful and allow public input."
The environmental groups sent a 60-day notice letter, a legal requirement for citizen's enforcing the law, to the Port of Seattle, the shipping companies, and the various unions whose members must unload the waste. "We do not blame the unions in any way. They are caught in the middle and are being forced to violate the law," said Batker.
"Citizens are stepping in where EPA has failed to do its job," Goldman said. "We hope that EPA will reconsider its position and uphold the law."