Tragedy In The Ivory Coast
Dozens of People Killed - 30,000 Injured - 100,000 Effected
After Dumping Untreated Spent Caustic
On An Unsuspecting People



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            Tragic news story ........ 500 metric tonnes (110,000 gallons) of liquid Spent Caustic were illegally dumped in the Ivory Coast City Of Abidjan causing deaths and injuries to local residents.  Hundreds of millions of British Pounds (GBP*) have been spent on remediation and claims since the incident began in 2006.



            This entire incident could have been prevented if the originating Company had applied Texas Technology's remedial process before the Spent Caustics ever left the original site.  The cost for treating the original waste was estimated at £75,000 GBP* using the TEXOXTM Process.

Here's the continuing story published in BBC's Newsnight Programme .....
Please note that some of the photographs and video of injuries may be disturbing to some individuals.

BBC Newsnight LogoTo watch streaming video from BBC Newsnight Programme click here:
Part 1  Toxic Waste Dumping In Ivory Coast  (13.2 Mb)
Part 2  Toxic Waste Dumping In Ivory Coast  (13.1 Mb)
Note: High speed broadband connection required.
At 12 Mbps connection allow about 5 seconds before streaming self-starts, slower connections will take longer.

To obtain the free current edition of FLV Final Media Player goto:  http://www.finalmediaplayer.com/


Ivory Coast Toxic Waste Dump in Year 2006 to 2010
(Côte D'Ivoire Toxic Waste Dump)

 Africa Map   Ivory Coast Abidjan
     

        The illegal dumping of Toxic Waste containing Spent Caustic caused a health crisis in the Ivory Coast beginning in 2006.  A ship registered in Panama, the Probo Koala, chartered by a United Kingdom owned oil and commodity shipping company, illegally dumped 500 metric tonnes (or 110,000 gallons) of toxic waste, otherwise called Spent Caustic or Waste Caustic, in the Ivorian port of Abidjan.

          Here, a truck full of garbage off-loads at a dump in Abidjan.  Much of the city's normal waste is dumped in large open areas in the poor suburbs of the city where the residents separate anything of value.

img01

            The illegally dumped "substance" was claimed by the company to have been "slops", or waste water from the washing of the ship's tanks, but a Dutch inquiry found the substance was more than 500 tonnes of a mixture of fuel, caustic soda, and hydrogen sulfide transported from Europe as toxic waste searching for a disposal site.  The substance was then dumped by a local contractor in 12 sites around the country's largest city, Abidjan, in August 2006.  The toxic and deadly gas released by these chemicals, particularly hydrogen sulfide gas, is blamed by the United Nations and the government of Côte d'Ivoire for the deaths of 17 and the injury of over 30,000 Ivorians with injuries that ranged from mild headaches to severe burns of skin and lungs.  Almost 100,000 Ivorians sought medical attention for the effects of these chemicals.

Duitch Team Hoses   masked workers

            The Company has denied any waste was transported from Holland, saying that the dumped "substances" contained only tiny amounts of hydrogen sulfide, and that the company did not know the substance was to be disposed improperly.  In early 2007, the company paid £100 million GBP for cleanup to the Ivorian government without admitting wrongdoing, and the Ivorian government has pledged not to prosecute the company. A series of protests and resignations of Ivorian government officials followed this deal.

            The city of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, made an inquiry in late 2006 and found that the Probo Koala had been turned away from offloading toxic waste prior to departing from the port of Amsterdam and heading to West Africa. A civil lawsuit in London was launched in 2008 by almost 30,000 Ivorians against the Company.  In May 2009, the Company announced it would also sue the British Broadcasting Company for libel after its Newsnight program alleged the Company had knowingly sought to cover up its role in the 2006 Côte d'Ivoire toxic waste dump.  In September 2009, The Guardian obtained and published internal Company emails showing that the traders responsible knew how dangerous the proposed chemicals were.  Shortly afterwards, the Company offered an unnamed settlement figure to the class action suit pending against them.

Contents

  • 1 The incident
    • 1.1 Immediate effects
    • 1.2 Company's description of events
    • 1.3 Rejection in Europe
  • 2 Aftermath
    • 2.1 Deaths and illnesses
    • 2.2 Fall of government
    • 2.3 Lawsuit by victims
    • 2.4 Arrests
    • 2.5 Ivorian government finding
    • 2.6 Company payment
    • 2.7 Dutch inquiry
    • 2.8 Wikipedia article
    • 2.9 Compensation

The Incident & Source

ship

            On August 19, 2006 the Probo Koala, a Panama-registered tanker, owned by Greek shipping company Prime Marine Management and chartered to the Dutch company, the "Company" owning the toxic waste offloaded more than 500 tons of toxic waste at the Port of Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire.  This material was then spread, allegedly by subcontractors, across the city and surrounding areas, dumped in waste grounds, public dumps, and along roads in populated areas.  The substance gave off toxic gas and resulted in burns to lungs and skin, as well as severe headaches and vomiting.  Seventeen people were confirmed to have died, and at least 30,000 persons were injured.  The company has claimed that the waste was dirty water ("slops") used for cleaning the ship's gasoline tanks, but a Dutch government report, as well as an Ivorian investigation dispute this, claiming this was toxic waste delivered from Europe to West Africa, after the ship had previously tried to offload at the port of Amsterdam, but was rejected there.  During an ongoing civil lawsuit by over 30,000 Ivorian citizens against the "Company", a Dutch government report concluded that in fact the liquid dumped contained two 'British tonnes' of hydrogen sulphide.  The Company, following an investigative report by the BBC's Newsnight programme, announced on May 16, 2009 that they will sue the BBC for libel.

The following series of photos were obtained from the BBC Newsnight video -

The ship was traced from Mexico to Texas in the United States.....  

..... Across the Atlantic Ocean to Amsterdam:


..... To North Africa, then to Ivory Coast:

   

The BBC "Newsnight" video depicted the layer of heavier toxic sulfurized
Spent Caustic contained in the ship's cargo hold:


...... the Spent Caustic contained 2 tons of toxic hydrogen sulfide, equating to
1,438 cubic meters of gas released into the ground level atmosphere, the gas
being heavier than air hugged the ground engulfing anybody in its path
until slowly dispersed by the wind:


...... and 12 tons of toxic mercaptans (also called thiols or organic sulfides),
equating to 6,112 cubic meters as methyl-mercaptan gas being further released
into the ground level atmosphere:


Mercaptans are the most odoriferous substances known to mankind and are the
substances found in Skunk spray and the chemicals used to odorize natural gas, but
in extremely low parts-per-billion concentrations.

These chemicals can kill on contact:



Immediate Effects



injury 1    injury 3


                The scope of the dumping and the related illnesses were slow to emerge.  While the first cargo was offloaded in August 2006, the dumping continued for almost three weeks before the population knew what was happening.  But as early as August 19, residents near the landfill at Akouedo were aware that trucks were dumping toxic liquid into the landfill and blocked the entrance of one of the trucks to the dump, which had been freshly painted with the logo of a newly created company.  Residents near several landfills in the suburbs of Abidjan began complaining publicly of foul smelling gas in the first week of September, and several people were reported to have died. Protests broke out in several areas against both the companies dumping liquid waste and the government.  On September 4, the government called for protesters to allow free circulation of traffic so the area's hospitals, which were complaining of a flood of the injured, could operate.  In the aftermath of the crisis, many top government figures resigned. This mass resignation has been called "unprecedented" in the Ivory Coast's history.  In an effort to prevent the contamination of the food chain large numbers of livestock (among them 450 pigs) affected by the dump have been culled.


Company's Description of Events

            On August 19, 2006 the tanker ship Probo Koala, chartered by the Company and docked at the port of Abidjan, transferred the liquid into tankers owned by a firm called "Compagnie Tommy". The company claims the ship had been chartered by the Company to transport oil to another West African port, and was retuning to Europe, empty. The transfer at Abidjan, according to the Company, was a routine maintenance stop, not a delivery of waste from European ports.  The Company claims that this was done under agreement that it would be treated and disposed of legally, and that the substance was waste ("slops") from the routine washing of Probo Koala's tanks. Again according to then Company, it became apparent that the untreated slops had been dumped illegally at municipal refuse dumps. They contend that the slops were an alkaline mixture of water, gasoline, and caustic soda, along with a very small amount the foul smelling toxic hydrogen sulfide.  Further, the Company says that their tests show that, while noxious, the slop from their ship could not have caused deaths, no matter how poorly it was handled by a third party.  The company contends that the people of Abidjan, especially those living near dumps, suffered from a lifetime of exposure to toxic substances, not from their actions.


Rejection in Europe

            The industrial docks at Amsterdam-Noord, Holland, reported that the Probo Koala had its cargo rejected here by Amsterdam Port Services BV, and was to be charged 500,000 Euros in nearby Moerdijk.  On August 19 it offloaded a liquid waste in Abidjan, paying only around 18,500 EUR to have it disposed.

            According to the City of Amsterdam report, before it dumped the waste in Abidjan, the Probo Koala was in port in Holland from July 2 to 5, 2006.  There, the ship attempted to have the waste processed in Amsterdambut Amsterdam Port Services BV, the company that had contracted to treat the waste, refused after its staff reported an incredibly foul smell coming from the waste.  A company specialized in the disposal of chemical waste, Afvalstoffen Terminal Moerdijk in nearby Moerdijk, tendered the disposal of the waste (based on the samples it received) for 500,000 EUR. Instead, the material was pumped back into the Probo Koala, which then left port on July 5, appearing on August 19 in Côte d'Ivoire where "Compagnie Tommy", which was registered only days before the arrival of the Probo Koala, was contracted for 18,500 EUR to dispose of the waste.

            The Company contends there was no waste being transported from Europe, but this was an accident caused by the mishandling by an Ivorian company of waste water used to wash the ships storage tanks.  A Dutch newspaper reported on this possibility, saying the waste could have been generated as a result of attempted on-board desulfurization (removing mercaptans) of naphtha in a Merox-like Process.  In this way high mercaptan laden gasoline is upgraded to meet certain country specific specifications.  This would explain the water/caustic soda/gasoline mix and also the presence in trace amounts of a certain catalyst called ARI-100 EXL, generally used in this process.  It would on the other hand not explain the presence of hydrogen sulfide because the final stage of the Merox process produces an organic disulfide unless the attempt at desulfurization had failed.  The company has always contended that the amount of hydrogen sulfide in the waste was small.  The press and government findings contend there was a substantial amount of hydrogen sulfide dumped, some 2 tonnes of the 500 tonnes of dumped liquid.


Aftermath

            University of Cocody Hospital Centre Abidjan, one of the hospitals which received thousands of patients in August and September 2006 following the dumping of 500 tonnes of toxic waste products around the city.


Deaths and Illnesses

            In the weeks following the incident the BBC reported that 17 people died, 23 were hospitalized, and a further 40,000 sought medical treatment (due to headaches, nosebleeds, and stomach pains).  These numbers were revised upward over time, with the numbers reported by the Ivorian government in 2008 reaching 17 dead, dozens severely ill, 30,000 receiving medical treatment for ailments connected to the chemical exposure, of almost 100,000 seeking medical treatment at the time.  While the company and the Ivorian government continue to disagree on the exact make up of the chemicals, specialists from the United Nations, France, and the Dutch National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) were sent to Abidjan to investigate the situation.


Fall of Government

            Following revelations by local press and government on the extent of the illnesses involved, the nine month old transitional government of Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny resigned.  The government vowed to provide treatment and pay all medical costs associated with the waste dump.


Lawsuit by Victims

            On November 11, 2006, a £100 million GBP lawsuit was filed in the High Court in London by the UK firm Leigh Day & Co. alleging that "Company were negligent and that this, and the nuisance resulting from their actions, caused the injuries to the local citizens." Martyn Day, of Leigh Day & Co[2] said, "This has been a disaster on a monumental scale.  We hold the Company fully to account for all the deaths and injuries that have resulted from the dumping of their waste."  In response, the Company announced on Monday November 13, 2006 that it has started libel proceedings against British lawyer Martyn Day, of Leigh Day & Co.


Arrests

            Shortly after it became apparent that the toxic slops from the Probo Koala had led to the outbreak of sickness, two Company executives, Claude Dauphin and Jean-Pierre Valentini, traveled to Abidjan.  They were arrested on September 18, four days after their arrival, and were held in Abidjan's Maca prison, charged with breaking Cote d'Ivoire's laws against poisoning.  There were several reported attacks of the two executives during their imprisonment Company called for their immediate release, but this did not occur until a settlement for the cleanup was paid to the Ivorian government.

            Seven Ivorians were eventually brought to trial in Abidjan for their part in the dumping.  The head of the Ivorian contractor who dumped the more than 500 tonnes of toxic liquid was sentenced to 20 years in prison in November 2008.


Ivorian government Finding

            A November 2006 Ivorian government report into the incident said that Company was to blame for the dumping of waste, and was aided by Ivorians. A government committee concluded that Company knew that the nation had no facilities to store such waste and knowingly transported the waste from Europe to Abidjan.  The report further claimed that the "Compangnie Tommy" which actually dumped the substance "shows all the signs of being front company set up specifically to handle the Company waste", and was "established in a period between Company's decision not to pay for expensive waste disposal in Amsterdam and its ship's arrival in Abidjan."  The government fact-finding committee had no prosecutorial powers, and its findings were rejected by the company.  The committee also found that officials in the Port of Abidjan and a variety of local and national bodies either failed to plug holes in environmental laws or were guilty of ignoring laws through corruption.


Company Payment

            On February 13, 2007, the Company agreed to pay the Ivorian government £100 million GBP for the clean-up of the waste; however the group denied any liability for the dump and as a part of the deal the government would not pursue further action against the group.  The Company employees Claude Dauphin, Jean-Pierre Valentini and Nzi Kablan, held by the Ivory Coast authorities after the incident, were then released and charges were dropped against them.  Further prosecutions against Ivorian citizens not employed by Company continued.  Through year 2009, payments were reported to exceed £200 million GBP and still climbing in 2010.


Dutch Inquiry

            On December 6, 2006 an independent inquiry launched by the city of Amsterdam concluded that the city was negligent when they allowed Company to take waste back on board the Probo Koala in Amsterdam in July.  Part of the Probo cargo was offloaded with the intent to have it processed with an Amsterdam waste processing company but when this turned out too expensive Company took it back. T he responsible local civil servants were reportedly unaware of existing Dutch environmental laws that would not allow its export given these circumstances.  On December 19, 2006, a majority of the Dutch House of Representatives expressed their desire for a new investigation into the Probo Koala.  On January 8, 2007, the Guardian reported that the legal team for Leigh Day had arrived in Abidjan, and would begin taking statements from thousands of witnesses.

            In late 2008, a criminal prosecution was begun in the Netherlands by the Dutch Public Prosecutors office. While the trial was not scheduled to begin until late 2009, the head of Company, Claude Dauphin, was specifically cited as not under indictment.  Rather the company itself, the captain of the Probo Koala, and Amsterdam port authorities would be charged with "illegally transporting toxic waste into and out of Amsterdam harbour" and falsification the chemical composition of the ships cargo on documents.


Wikipedia Article

            On May 18, 2007, the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant reported that the press officer of Company, (operating under the username Press Office T NL), tried to alter the Dutch Wikipedia article on the incident (nl:Probo Koala) on three separate occasions, to alter the history of the affair and portray the company as innocent of wrongdoing.  The page was then locked from editing.


Compensation

            On September 20, 2009, then Company announced it would pay a further compensation package of more than £25 million to those individuals affected by the tragedy.  The package would be divided into groups of £750 which would then be paid to 31,000 people. The deal came soon after a report by the United Nations stated there was "strong prima facie evidence" that the waste was responsible for injuries.  The Company responded by saying they were "appalled at the basic lack of balance and analytical rigour reflected in the report" and refused to take responsibility for the disaster.  Representatives of those affected said Company was trying to avoid a legal case.  The Company claimed that at least 75 per cent of the receivers of the money agreed with the deal.


* The conversion from £ GBP to $ USD varied greatly during these 5 years, the approximate conversion rates are given here:
2006  1.00
£ = $ 1.75
2007  1.00
£ = $ 1.95
2008  1.00
£ = $ 2.00
2009  1.00
£ = $ 1.50
2010  1.00 £ = $ 1.42 and dropping

References include Wikipedia.com
Search Keywords: ivory coast toxic waste dump


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