Illegal Dumping

The incident of the Khian Sea shows the state of international controls on ocean dumping. In September 1986, the

Khian Sea, owned by a Bahamian company, the Amalgamated Shipping Corporation, loaded in Philadelphia with 28 million lb of toxic incinerator ash. The ship attempted, unsuccessfully, to discharge its load in the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Costa Rica, Guinea-Bissau, and the Cape Verde Islands. In February 1987, it discharged 4 million of its 28 million lb of ash in Haiti but then was ordered out of that country.

In September 1988, the Khian Sea was sighted in the Suez Canal with a new name, Felicia, and a new owner, Romo Shipping, Inc. In October 1988, Captain Abdel Hakim, vice-president of Romo Shipping, sent a message to Amalgamated Shipping (which has since gone out of business) indicating that the ash had been discharged; Hakim did not say where it had been discharged. The resolution of this case and who will answer for what in front of which legal authority is not clear. But this incident illustrates the chaotic state of international control over dumping in international water.

Illegal dumping is not limited to international water. In December 1988, the State Attorney General of New York accused the General Marine Transport Corporation of illegal dumping in the Raritan River, the Hudson Bay, and the coastal waters of New York City. The lawsuit also names four officers of the corporation and recommends placing environmental police on barges.

Some sludge haulers do not take their loads to designated areas but dump them closer inshore. To control this situation, the EPA now requires that each load of sludge be accompanied by a black box, which is dumped with the load. This requirement allows the EPA to protect against cheating. Another EPA requirement is that the barge must dump the load slowly to maximize dispersal.

Illegal dumping also includes medical waste, which has caused New York area beaches to close. Until this dumping occurred, no government agency was charged with tracking the safe disposal of hospital waste from the point of generation to the point of disposal. After the beach closings, Congress introduced bills requiring the EPA to create a paper trail to control the disposal of medical waste. New regulations in New York State require hazardous and infectious medical debris, including needles, to be placed in strong, moisture-resistant, red bags conspicuously labeled as infectious. Medical practitioners must either carry their infectious waste to an approved hospital incinerator or deliver it to a certified trucker. Regulations have also established an elaborate record-keeping system to track waste from the source to disposal.

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