Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Wednesday, Feb 13, 2002
Industry & Economy
Greenpeace seeks further study of samples -- Importer awaits test report on WTC scrap
S. Gopikrishna Warrier
CHENNAI, Feb. 12
IS the steel scrap from the World Trade Center (WTC) debris, unloaded at the Chennai Port in January, contaminated with toxics, or is it as safe as any other steel scrap import?
While the importer of the consignment is awaiting the result of investigations from SGS India Ltd, environmental group Greenpeace India, which had raised the caution about the shipment, is deciding whether to do the investigations itself or approach the regulatory agencies.
According to Mr Shashi Kumar of Sabari Exim Private Ltd (the importing company), samples from the shipment have been drawn by SGS and tests are being carried out for asbestos, mercury, dioxins, furans and poly-chlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The results of the investigations are expected within a few days.
"We have asked this independent agency to carry out the investigations so that once the results come out, then the issue can be closed once and for all," he said.
While acknowledging that Mr Kumar has been quite open in sharing information about the shipment, the Greenpeace India Executive Director, Mr G. Ananthapadmanabhan, said the scrap would certainly require more than a visual examination that was done by SGS India at the time of unloading.
"We are in the process of trying to decide the best way forward," he said. "We have to decide whether Greenpeace should take out samples for analysis, or should we request the appropriate regulatory agencies to carry out the investigations."
Greenpeace India, along with a few human rights and trade union organisations, had raised a cautionary note about the import of steel scrap from the WTC debris.
According to them, the scrap from WTC cannot be treated as an ordinary steel scrap, since everything in the buildings from the mercury-containing tube lights, the carcinogenic asbestos insulation, PVC articles, and computers were incinerated after 91,000 litres of jet fuel ignited in the buildings.
They had said that though the steel scrap in the consignment could be free from toxics, it was necessary to have it tested before it is imported into the country.
"The point is that this incident has exposed the weakness in our regulatory system," said Mr Ananthapadmanabhan. According to Mr Kumar, 33,000 tonnes of scrap steel was unloaded at the Ennore Port from `M.V. Borzna' during January. The cargo has been stored in two yards at Manali town close to the port. Of this, around 7,000 tonnes have been already been bought by arc and induction furnace units in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry.
He said that he had been in the business of importing scrap steel and selling to the foundries in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry for the last few years. This particular consignment was in no way different to the earlier ones.
There was neither a premium nor a discount on this particular consignment, which was imported at $122 for a tonne, the current market price.
It is difficult to guess what percentage of the consignment will be scrap steel from WTC, according to him.
"I would imagine it to be between 5,000 and 6,000 tonnes".
The consignment was imported from Metal Management Inc of the US, a large scrap processor, which handles steel scrap from various sources.
According to Mr Kumar, the scrap handled by this company is certified by the US Environmental Protection Agency. He has requested the American company to send the environmental report for this consignment.
Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), according to sources, has communicated to all the port authorities in the State not to permit the despatch of any toxic-contaminated steel scrap.
However, the port authorities can permit the despatch if they are certain that there is no contamination, the sources said.
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