Jan 10, 2007

UK to Begin Class Action Suite Over Toxic Waste Dumped in Africa

Lawyers have begun preparing the argument from one of the largest class actions heard in the UK. The suit is in reaction to over 400 tons of allegedly highly toxic waste that was dumped into the Ivory Coast from a cargo ship charted by a London-based company.

According to the Guardian Unlimited, the team has started taking statements from thousands of witnesses. At least 10 people died from the waste and over 40,000 needed medical attention after suffering nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.
Leigh Day, the British law firm in charge of the case, reported that up to 5,000 people may be sued for the incident.

The spill occurred when the waste from the oil tanker Probo Koala was poured down drains and left at roadsides, the Ivory Coast and the UN Environment Programme stated. Half of the 18 dumping sites still have not been decontaminated.

The waste is now being taken to France for disposal, as the Ivory Coast is unable to afford the cost of the estimated $30 million clean-up.

The Probo Koala, chartered by the London-based arm of the shipping company Trafigura, docked at Amsterdam on July 2, 2006 on its way to Estonia. Trafigura agreed with Amsterdam Port Services, a specialist firm, that APS would remove the contents of its ship's slop tank for a fee. APS claims that it was told that the waste was conventional and began to unload; however, the smells were so pungent that the company stopped the operation and asked for more money. After a dispute, it is alleged Trafigura ordered the material to be pumped back onto the vessel which then set off for Abidjan, via the Canaries, Togo, and Nigeria, arriving on August 19.

A local company was then employed to remove the waste, but the company hired had no experience with disposing of toxic waste. The waste was dispersed into trucks and duped around the city.

Trafigura denies allegations that the waste had high levels of caustic soda, as well as a sulphur compound and hydrogen sulphide.
Trafigura has sanctioned an independent investigation, chaired by the former Scottish minister Lord Fraser of Carmyllie.