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Pa. Takes Back 2,500 Tons of Ash

June 27, 2002

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GREENCASTLE, Pa. (AP) _ Shunned by ports and dumps around the hemisphere for 16 years, a wandering load of 2,500 tons of incinerator ash began arriving Thursday at a rural Pennsylvania landfill.

The ash had languished on a barge in Florida the past two years until Pennsylvania agreed to take it back. About 20 tons arrived Thursday at the landfill in south-central Pennsylvania near the Maryland border; the rest is to arrive by truck and rail over the next three weeks.

``It came from Pennsylvania and it’s coming back home to Pennsylvania,″ said resident Jim Mutchler, 80, whose ranch-style home has views of the dump.

In 1985, the ash totaled about 14,800 tons when it was orphaned in Philadelphia. The city’s landfill, like many on the East Coast, had run out of space.

The next year, a city subcontractor found space in the Bahamas and a cargo ship called the Khian Sea set sail. But the Bahamian government refused to let the ship dock, and for a year the ship sailed the Caribbean searching for a willing dump.

The ship was turned away by the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Guinea-Bissau and the Netherlands Antilles after environmental groups warned the countries that the ash might contain toxic materials. Crew members even reported being turned away at gunpoint.

Federal and state regulators in the United States say the ash has ``minute″ amounts of toxic metals, like lead and cadmium.

On New Year’s Eve 1987, the ship anchored off Haiti, where the ash was to be used as fertilizer. Some ash was offloaded but, after public protests, permits were revoked and the Khian Sea was ordered to leave with the remaining 10,800 tons.

After more countries rejected the ash, the ship’s captain, under orders from the company that had just bought the Khian Sea, dumped the ash in the Atlantic and Indian oceans.

Meantime, some of the ash in Haiti had been entombed but the rest was ordered removed. Two years ago it was shipped to Florida, where its current possessor, Waste Management Inc., and the state tried to find a taker. Finally Pennsylvania agreed.

``They decided that ’Yeah, it’s our waste, let’s dispose of it,‴ said Willie Puz of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which is paying $600,000 to move the waste.

For residents of Upton, Pa., site of the 263-acre Mountain View Reclamation Landfill, the ash is simply a footnote in their 20-year struggle to grow used to a landfill in their back yard.

``I’m somewhat skeptical after all those countries wouldn’t take it,″ said George Henneberger, 48, who owns a nearby general store. ``But it’s probably safer here than anywhere else.″


On the Net:

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection: http://www.dep.state.pa.us

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