From: Associated Press
Published November 7, 2006 12:00 AM

Toxic Waste That Sickened Ivory Coast Arrives in French Port

LE HAVRE, France — A ship bearing 141 sealed containers filled with toxic waste arrived Tuesday in this French port from Ivory Coast, where the waste was dumped in August and blamed for killing 10 people.

The MN Toucan arrived in Le Havre after a 10-day journey from Abidjan. Ecology Minister Nelly Olin was to oversee the unloading of the waste containers later Tuesday.

The containers hold toxic liquids and dirt gathered by a French company on contract with the Ivorian government to clean up the waste.

The company, Tredi International, has collected 5,000 tons of toxins and surrounding dirt and is now to neutralize the waste, a process expected to take about two weeks. The neutralized waste will then transported by freight train to France's southeastern Isere, where it is to incinerated.

"It was the Ivorian authorities that asked France to help," said Olin, adding that the West African country "was not able to treat" the waste.

Representatives of French environmental organization Robin Hood were also present at the unloading. Member Charlotte Nithard said the group had asked French authorities to bring the waste back to Europe, "a continent it should never have left."

The waste was originally offloaded in Abidjan on Aug. 19 from the Probo Koala, a vessel chartered by Dutch commodities trading company Trafigura Beheer.

Trafigura officials say the ship was carrying a cargo of gasoline and stopped in Abidjan to dispose of the content of the ship's waste tanks, known as "slops." Trafigura says the waste disposed of in Abidjan was a mix of gasoline residues, water and caustic sodas used to clean slops.

U.N. experts, however, say the waste that was dumped in Abidjan contained hydrogen sulfide, which in concentrated doses can kill humans.

Ivory Coast's Health Ministry says 10 people have died and more than 60 were hospitalized in areas where the waste was dumped. Ivory Coast's government is investigating the scandal.

Source: Associated Press

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