Greenpeace Exposes Former Us Base Equipment Leaking Poisons
Manila/Amsterdam, 29 February 2000: Greenpeace today removed a former United States military airbase transformer which was leaking extremely toxic industrial chemicals (PCBs) into the environment in a residential area of Mabalacat, in the Philippines.
Analysis of the soil samples from the community area where the transformer was found contained PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) up to 18 times higher than levels considered safe for residential areas, and up to three times the level considered hazardous waste. The 400 kva transformer, measuring 2 meters high and weighing about 1 to 2 tons, was clearly marked as containing PCBs and owned by the United States.
Greenpeace activists, wearing full hazardous materials protection gear, took action to clean up hazardous wastes abandoned by the United States in Clark Air Base, demanding that the US pay for the pollution and clean up the toxic contamination it left behind after American forces left the Philippines in 1992.
“Recognizing the urgency of the situation, Greenpeace decided to take steps to contain the PCB contamination from the transformer to prevent any further exposure. It's a shame that a rich country like the United States has chosen to ignore its responsibilities in the Philippines despite the fact that contamination at former US bases is already poisoning the environment and the people,” said Von Hernandez, Greenpeace Toxics Campaigner in the Philippines.
PCBs are industrial chemicals used mostly in electrical equipment. They promote cancer and increase susceptibility to disease. PCBs harm the environment and have been classified as a persistent global pollutant by the United Nations Environment Program.(1)
“Local communities surrounding Clark Air base have for many years identified mysterious deaths and health complaints including cancer, nervous system disorders, and reproductive problems, ” said Hernandez.
There is already a lot of evidence pointing to serious contamination problems in the former US bases, in Clark and Subic Bay. Greenpeace believes this case represents only the tip of the iceberg as regards wastes from the former US bases. It is well known that a lot of US base equipment including PCB containing transformers have been looted out of the base by enterprising locals out to sell them for recycling or re-use.
“As an American, I am embarrassed that my government refuses to take responsibility for this pollution that is causing harm to innocent families,” said Jack Weinberg, advisor to the Greenpeace Toxics Campaign. “Neither Filipinos nor Americans should be forced to endure these hazards in their backyards
“It is no surprise that the US government opposes the efforts of other governments to establish an effective global treaty under the United Nations to eliminate these dangerous substances when it leaves its waste in other countries backyards, ” added Weinberg.
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