The garbage barge that captured headlines throughout the spring and
summer of 1987 was small compared to another load of toxic trash afloat
now on the high seas.
The barge "Morgo" carried 3100 tons of Islip, Long Island's garbage
from March, 1987 to July, 1987, and was refused entry into five states
and three foreign countries. But a cargo ship that left Philadelphia in
September, 1986, is carrying 15,000 tons of toxic ash from the city's
municipal garbage incinerators and is still--15 months later--wandering
the high seas looking for a place to dump its dioxin-laced load.
Outside Philadelphia the press has ignored this much larger, more
dangerous cargo searching for a home.
Three weeks ago, in HWN #52, we reviewed Philadelphia's attempt to
export 250,000 tons of its incinerator ash to Panama in Central
America. What we did not report was Philadelphia's earlier, and still
ongoing, attempt to export its toxic ash to the Bahamas.
In summer, 1986, Philadelphia's mayor, Wilson Goode, made a deal with a
local paving contractor, Paolino and Sons, to get rid of 15,000 tons of
ash. Paolino and Sons, in turn, contracted with a company called
Amalgamated Shipping, with headquarters in Freeport, Bahamas. The ship
"Khian Sea," carrying 15,000 tons of toxic ash in its cargo hold,
departed Philadelphia Sept. 5 headed for a Bahamian island 60 miles
from Miami. But someone tipped the Bahamian government and when the
Khian Sea arrived, Bahamian officials turned it away. Since that time
the Khian Sea has sought a dumping ground for its cargo, but, according
to the Associated Press, the Dominican Republic has said no, Honduras
has said no, and the West African nation of Guinea-Bissau has said no.
The Khian Sea last left port November 4 from Panama in Central America
where it had stopped for a crew change only--there had never been any
hope the Panamanian government would accept the toxic ash. According to
Russell Cook of the Philadelphia INQUIRER, the Khian Sea left port
without any stated destination. He speculates that the ship is anchored
in deep water somewhere in the Caribbean, trying to figure out what to
do with its cargo that no one wants. Paolino and Sons cannot get paid
by the city of Philadelphia until they can certify that the toxic ash
was disposed of in an environmentally sound manner. Amalgamated cannot
get paid until the Paolinos get paid. The Paolinos have filed a lawsuit
in federal court in Philadelphia seeking $500,000 from Amalgamated,
charging that Amalgamated originally misrepresented the willingness of
the Bahamian government to accept Philadelphia's toasted trash.
What is most remarkable about this modern sea tale is that hundreds of
other American communities have launched themselves on the same course
as Philadelphia, preparing to create enormous quantities of dangerous
incinerator ash laced with dioxin, lead, cadmium and other toxic
compounds--with no safe place to put it.
NEW REPORT OFFERS INSIGHTS INTO AMERICA'S RECENT GARBAGE CRISIS
Until now, there has been no completely satisfactory book for trash
warriors-participants in the trash wars of the '70s and '80s. Now one
exists. It is presently available as a report from the University of
California at Los Angeles, but the University of Arizona Press will
issue it (revised) as a commercial book. We can't wait. Everyone who
cares deeply about garbage will want to read this report. It has
everything--heroes and villains, a complex plot, lots of factual
information you can use in your own local struggle, and--most
importantly--a coherent view of the trash crisis. The report is called
The Dilemma of Solid Waste Management, subtitled The Rise of
Incineration, Its Health and Air Impacts, The Lancer Project, and the
Feasibility of Alternatives.
The immediate focus of this report is the 1600 ton-per-day mass burn
garbage incinerator first proposed for Los Angeles in 1984. The project
was known as the Los Angeles City Energy Recovery Project (or Lancer
for short). Lancer was born as a gleam in investors' eyes in the late
'70s and it died an anguished death in June, 1987, when L.A. Mayor Tom
Bradley announced he was killing it though the city had already poured
$12 million into it. All of California's trash-to-steam dreams faded,
probably permanently, when Lancer died.
This 425-page report chronicles the life of the Lancer project (perhaps
coincidentally, Lancer died about 2 weeks after this report appeared),
but it is much more than the history of one project. It puts the Lancer
project into historical perspective, looking back at the nation's first
enthusiasm for mass burn incineration in the period from 1890 to 1910
(it was an unqualified failure), then analyzing the political events
surrounding Lancer (proponents of the project rewarding friendly
politicians with big campaign contributions, but those politicians
losing elections anyway), the economics of the project (including the
hidden government subsidies that proponents of the project always
forgot to mention), the environmental impacts of the project (bad air
and toxic ash), and the social effects of the proposal on the people of
south-central Los Angeles (it led low-income minority groups into a
coalition with white activist environmentalists, an alliance that has
The report is VERY readable, even ENJOYABLE in its clarity. And every
trash warrior in the U.S. will find something valuable in it for use in
a local fight. READ THIS REPORT CAREFULLY TO LEARN HOW TO BUILD YOUR
OWN ARGUMENTS LOCALLY. The report is filled with the kinds of details
you can't find anywhere else--like the quantities of cash that E.F.
Hutton and Smith Barney pocketed just for arranging financing for the
Lancer project. The report analyzes the economics of the project in
devastating detail, beginning with the city's 1986 estimate that Lancer
will handle trash at a cost to taxpayers of only $27.43 per ton. With
meticulous detective work, the authors examine every assumption
underlying this optimistic estimate, finally revealing that the true
cost of Lancer would be AT LEAST $105.38 per ton.
We salute Robert Gottlieb and Beverley Pitman, project supervisors, and
their team of 10 graduate students in the UCLA Graduate School of
Architecture and Urban Planning, who produced this exemplary study.
THIS REPORT ILLUSTRATES WHAT URBAN PLANNING IS SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT--
helping cities avoid unpleasant surprises. Impressive work. For a copy
send $25 (payable to the University of California) to Mr. Gottlieb at
the UCLA Graduate School of Urban Planning, 405 Hilgard Avenue, Los
Angeles, CA 90024. Phone (213) 825-3791.
Descriptor terms: msw; international waste trade; incinerator ash; los
angeles, ca; los angeles city energy recovery project;