Return to sender - Ivory Coast ships toxic waste back to Europe

Toxic waste that killed ten people and left thousands in need of medical attention in the Ivory Coast is to be shipped back to Europe for treatment.

The waste was dumped in the African state's capital, Abidjan, in August after being unloaded from a Panamanian-registered ship, chartered by Dutch oil trading firm Trafigura (see related story) and the resulting scandal led to the resignation of the Ivorian government.

Two senior executives from the Dutch company are still being detained by the Ivorian authorities, despite company claims that there was no wrong-doing as the waste was passed on to a local disposal firm and there was never any attempt to conceal what it was.

Lawyers acting for the victims, however, are mounting a case against Trafigura, saying it should have been aware that the company to which it gave the waste did not have the disposal facilities required for its safe treatment.

Now Tredi International, a branch of French company Séché Envrionnement specialising in clean-up and remediation, has agreed to take the waste.

Thousands of tonnes of the waste and contaminated soil have been sealed in metal containers and are due to be shipped back to Salaise in southeast France for treatment.

The waste was, according to Trafigura, chemical slops - spent caustic soda, petrol residues and water - which is a standard by-product of shipping gasoline.

The ship containing the waste made a stop in Abidjan specifically to unload the slops, ironically because of concerns that they would not have been properly disposed of in Nigeria, the vessel's previous port of call where it had offloaded its cargo, a shipment of petrol.

Sam Bond



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