In Court

Published: Tuesday 15 April 2008

Probe on Baikal pollution: The Russian prosecutor's office has launched an inquiry into a paper and pulp mill suspected of polluting Lake Baikal, the world's largest freshwater reserve. The mill, built in 1966, was illegally dumping waste in the lake and was breaking environmental norms in the area; there are 400 tonnes of waste on the factory's territory. The mill is also accused of using the lake's resources without permission. In a statement, the prosecutor-general said that there are "serious concerns" about the "ecological safety" of the lake and the surrounding areas, and ordered Irkutsk city prosecutors "to check legitimacy of the mill's activities".

UNESCO classifies Lake Baikal, the oldest and deepest lake in the world, as a world heritage centre. The lake contains 20 per cent of the world's total unfrozen fresh water reserve and some of the world's most unusual fresh water flora and fauna.

Negligence over asbestos: The court of appeal of Douai, northern France, has upheld a decision to fine a power generation equipment manufacturer, Alstom Power Boiler, that exposed its workers to harmful asbestos dust. The court slapped the company with the maximum fine of 75,000 (US $116,760). The court also asked the company to pay damages, ranging up to 10,000 (US $15,568), in damages to each of the employees exposed to asbestos dust, regardless of whether they had been directly affected or not. The ruling is first of its kind in France. In December 2007, civil proceedings found the company guilty of causing asbestos pollution. From 1998 to 2001, workers at Alstom's site in Lily-lez-Lannoy were exposed to asbestos dust, which the court described as a "deliberate violation" of the firm's health and safety obligations. Due to sustained exposure, seven of the company's employees died, and 30 per cent of the workforce developed some form of asbestos-related disease.

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