Khian Sea waste disposal incident


Khian Sea waste disposal incident

On August 31, 1986, the cargo ship "Khian Sea", registered in Liberia, loaded more than 14,000 tons of toxic incinerator ash in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The ash came from the incinerators of the city. The city had previously sent the refuse to New Jersey, but NJ refused to accept any more after 1984.

Companies handling the waste - Joseph Paolino and Sons, Amalgamated Shipping and Coastal Carrier - intended to dump the ash into a man-made island in the Bahamas. However, the Bahamian government turned the barge away. Philadelphia withheld the payment to the company because the waste was not disposed of.

Over the next 16 months, "Khian Sea" searched all over the Atlantic for a place to dump its cargo. Dominican Republic, Honduras, Panama, Bermuda, Guinea Bissau and the Dutch Antilles refused. Return to Philadelphia failed as well. In January 1988, the crew finally dumped 4,000 tons of the waste near Gonaives in Haiti as "topsoil fertilizer" (when it was too poisonous to be used that way). When Greenpeace warned the Haitian government of the true nature of the waste, Haitian commerce minister ordered the crew to reload the ash but the ship slipped away. Haitian government banned all the waste imports. Local clean up crews later buried some of the waste in a bunker inland.

Next the crew of "Khian Sea" tried to unload the rest of the cargo in Senegal, Morocco, Yugoslavia, Sri Lanka and Singapore. After repairs in Yugoslavia, the ship's name changed to "Felicia", registered in Honduras. Later it was renamed "Pelacano". Changes failed to hide the ship's original identity.

The rest of the ash disappeared en route from Singapore to Sri Lanka in November 1988. The crew had no comment but eventually the ship's captain admitted that they had dumped the remaining waste - more than 10,000 tons - into the Atlantic and Indian Ocean. In 1993, two owners of the Coastal Carrier were charged with perjury, accused of ordering the dumping.

Over the years, various attempts to return the ash dumped in Haiti failed.

In 1997, New York City Trade Waste Commission investigated Eastern Environmental Services whose owner was part of Joseph Paolino and Sons. They agreed to give the company a license to operate in New York City in condition that it would contribute to the cleanup in Haiti. EES agreed to take the waste back. Greenpeace and Haitian environmental groups launched a "Project Return to Sender" to lobby for funds. City of Philadelphia contributed $50,000.

In April 2000, Waste Management Inc. loaded 2,500 tons of ash and contaminated soil to barge "Santa Lucia" and shipped it to Florida, where the barge was docked in the St. Lucie Canal. There it stayed for two years until in June 2002 when it was moved to Mountain View Reclamation Landfill, in Franklin County, Pennsylvania near Antrim Township, after several government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, had found the contents to be nonhazardous.Fact|date=August 2007

The case contributed to the creation of the Basel Convention about disposal of hazardous waste.


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