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Unwanted Garbage Barge To Undergo Inspection

May 4, 1987

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ Officials inspected a barge filled with 6 million pounds of unwanted garbage today as it floated off the coast of Florida, and a New York official said he did not expect the check to turn up any dangerous material.

Environmental Protection Agency agents boarded the barge where it was anchored about five miles off the resort island of Key West

Henry G. Williams, the commissioner of New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, said Sunday he hoped the inspection ″could help dispel some of the myths and fictions″ surrounding the garbage. He said it was being shunned by landfill owners because of its notoriety.

Key West officials said they briefly considered taking the garbage for their new waste-to-energy plant, but now are not so sure.

″I still feel it’s a beautiful source of energy just sitting out there,″ said City Manager Joel Koford. ″But there are too many unknowns. We haven’t even determined if this stuff is toxic.″

Williams said he expected the inspection wouldn’t find anything dangerous in the garbage. He said he believed the bulk of the material is construction and demolition debris and paper boxes from shopping malls.

But, said Williams, ″We can only surmise what condition 6 million pounds of garbage is in″ after six weeks on a barge.

The barge left the Long Island community of Islip on March 22 looking for a home and has attracted a lot of attention from the media, rejection from five states and two foreign governments, and gibes from comedians on its 3,000 mile journey. All that, said Williams, is causing landfill owners to shun it.

″One guy I talked to ... said, ’We handle it all the time. The only problem is this particular barge has a stigma attached to it. Bring them into our waters and there’ll be a big fuss,‴ said Williams.

Williams said New York state ″has by no means invited them back.″ Williams discounted reports that the garbage was headed for a landfill near Buffalo.

The barge had headed north from waters off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and was about 20 miles south of Key West, Fla., Sunday morning.

Williams said it was headed for New York, but the owners of the barge and tug, Harvey Gulf International Marine, said they still had no destination for the barge and its cargo of 3,100 tons of commercial refuse.

The man who contracted to haul the load from Islip, Lowell Harrelson of Bay Minette, Ala., also said Sunday the garbage still has no place to go and that he is negotiating with landfill owners.

The barge has been turned away by North Carolina, Missisippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Texas, as well as Mexico and the Central American nation of Belize.

Williams said he ordered the inspection and contacted landfill owners across the country ″in the event it does end up on our doorstep that we aren’t stuck without other alternatives.″

He said the state had no responsibility for the garbage and was merely checking what options the owner might have.

″Let me make this clear,″ said Williams. ″We’re not directing it. We don’t have a home for it or anything of the sort. We don’t have a legal responsibility at any time.″

Islip has banned such commercial garbage from its landfill because it is running out of space.

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