California community activists have joined hands with local and international environmental justice organisations in denouncing plans to re-dump mercury-contaminated waste near Westmoreland, California (Down To Earth, Vol 7, No 18). Mercury-contaminated waste was first illegally dumped in Cambodia by the Taiwanese company, Formosa Plastics, late in 1998. Following the dumping, two persons that handled the waste died, and a riot and panicked exodus from the town caused five more deaths. The incident created an international furore that forced Formosa Plastics to sign an agreement with the Cambodian government to remove the waste within 60 days. Now, however, it appears that rather than taking the waste back to Taiwan, Formosa Plastics has contracted with US company Safety-Kleen to move the waste to its hazardous waste landfill site in one of the country's poorest, predominantly Latino regions in California's Imperial Valley.
Environment and community activists learned that the US Environmental Protection Agency gave Safety-Kleen the consent to import the waste without knowing whether the site was capable of taking mercury-contaminated wastes.
Residents of Westmoreland have begun to speak out in opposition to the planned shipment of toxic waste to their community. "They want to dump everything over here," said L Mendez, resident of Westmoreland. The environmental activists are demanding that the toxic waste be first removed from Cambodia within 60 days; the toxic waste must be returned to the factory site of Formosa Plastic; Taiwan should not be allowed to dump their waste in Taiwan, instead the waste should be placed in citizen-monitored storage on Formosa Plastic's site and at their expense; and Formosa Plastics be held liable for all damages incurred due to their export of hazardous wastes to Cambodia.
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