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Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova Choking On Toxic Waste

On top of one million tonnes of industrial waste, Moldova also has 8,000 tonnes of toxic residues, often "stored illegally and in a disorganised fashion contributing to land and water contamination," according to the OSCE. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Prague (AFP) May 23, 2007
Toxic waste, water pollution and the legacy of Chernobyl have plunged Ukraine and neighbouring Moldova and Belarus into an environmental crisis, according to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). In a report released in Prague this week, the OSCE said contaminated military sites were also a festering problem.

"Ukraine has approximately 2.5 millions tonnes of Soviet-era ammunition that requires disposal, including four burial grounds for radioactive waste", said the report.

The break-up of the Soviet Union had solved some environmental problems, but exacerbated others because of lax regulation and increased exploitation of natural resources, it said.

The application of stricter EU environmental standards in Slovakia and Hungary, Ukraine's neighbours, has resulted in attempts to export environmental problems across their eastern borders.

The report aimed to help "identify the most dangerous points and to enhance awareness," Bernard Soy, Coordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities, told AFP.

"Future generation will not forgive us if we sacrifice the environment to short-term political concerns," the report said.

Up to 10 percent of Ukrainian waste disposal sites belonging to the military require major repairs, the report said, pointing to a series of accidental explosions between 2004 and 2006 at the Novobohdanivka arsenal in the south of the country.

In Belarus, "the most serious environmental problem concerns the liquidation of armaments and munitions inherited from the Soviet Union, including toxic and radioactive material", the OSCE said.

During the Soviet era, military sites covered 300,000 hectares (741,000 acres), mostly forests. These had now been abandonded, leaving local authorities to clean up oil products in the soil and deal with high levels of electromagnetic radiation.

Moldova's military legacy included around 20,000 tonnes of arms and munitions stocked at the Cobasna station in Transnistria which are also hard to get rid of. "The simultaneous explosion of such quantities of ammunition may trigger an environmental and humanitarian disaster," the report warned.

Regarding industrial waste, experts found 8,000 tonnes of obsolete pesticides in Belarus and around 20,000 tonnes in Ukraine, of which 11,000 tonnes consist of hexachlorobenzene (HCB) and 2,000 tonnes of DDT, both posing "a long term danger for the environment and health."

Most of Ukraine's 6,000 storage sites were "inadequately built, poorly guarded facilities in a deteriorating state of repair", usually without any documentation.

On top of one million tonnes of industrial waste, Moldova also has 8,000 tonnes of toxic residues, often "stored illegally and in a disorganised fashion contributing to land and water contamination," according to the OSCE.

In Belarus, 778 million tonnes of mining waste in the Soligorsk region are exposed to wind and water erosion which causes a build-up of salt in the soil, threatening the river Pripyat with contamination.

Water quality is also a problem. In Ukraine, 39 percent of waste water is estimated to be polluted and about 25 percent goes into the environment without any kind of prior treatment.

In Moldova, up to half of ground water is contaminated "beyond all acceptable levels". It's even worse for surface water, affected by a wide variety of pollutants including ammonia, nitrites, phenols and oil products, the OSCE said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Serious Health Risk In Naples Area As Garbage System Backs Up
Rome (AFP) May 23, 2007
An overloaded garbage handling system is posing a "serious health risk" in the Naples area where 15,000 tonnes of waste is awaiting treatment, a government spokeswoman said Wednesday. "There's a serious health risk," Ilaria Proietti told AFP. "It's a total exaggeration to talk about the threat of cholera, but the proliferation of rats, mice and other rodents ... could cause diseases."

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