23 November 2002
deadly secret slides out of Carbides poison
Union Carbide has known for longer than a decade
that its derelict factory was poisoning ground
water and posed a threat to drinking wells of
no warnings, took minimal action to prevent further
Secret Carbide documents show company tried to
hide danger, claimed water was safe
2002 Study finds lead, mercury and organochlorines
in breast-milk of local women
the same communities decimated by the 1984 gas
organisations: "Eighteen years later that
terrible factory is still killing us"
A quick tour of the major discoveries
also "People v Poison": Bhopal.Net comment
statement on contamination discoveries by survivors
issued in Bhopal on 22 November
papers: Carbide used unproven technology in Bhopal,
released 14 November
Bhopal, India, 23 November, 2002. Union Carbide,
responsible for the 1984 gas disaster in which some
8,000 people were killed in three days, has known
for more than a decade that chemicals from its abandoned
and derelict Bhopal factory are poisoning the drinking
water of local communities, where a study earlier
this year found mercury, lead and organochlorines
in the breast milk of nursing women. (Note
Despite being aware of the danger and despite
the further damage being done to communities already
suffering from the effects of its poison gases
the company issued no warnings and took the least
possible action to stop the contamination, but continued
to insist publicly that local drinking wells were
safe. Meanwhile it was making strenuous behind-the-scenes
efforts to rid itself of responsibility for the site.
revelations are the second in a week to originate
from internal documents Union Carbide was forced to
disclose during the ongoing Class action filed by
Bhopal survivors in the Federal Southern District
court of New York, which alleges that the company
demonstrated reckless and depraved indifference to
human life through its Bhopal operations. Last week,
survivors revealed that Union Carbide and its ex-CEO
Warren Anderson had imposed unproven technology
in the most deadly part of the plant in order to cut
costs and maintain absolute control of their Indian
As early as 1972, Carbides American managers
talked about the danger of ground-water pollution
from that terrible factory, said Rashida Bi,
leader of a Bhopal survivors organisation which is
a plaintiff in the case. They made their own
proposals to stop it happening and then ignored
them. Instead, knowing the dangers, they set about
dumping thousands of tonnes of solid and liquid chemical
wastes into and outside the factory. They knew it
would poison our water and our daily lives and they
did it anyway.
In 1990, Union Carbide commissioned the Indian National
Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI)
to make a study of contamination arising from the
abandoned and by-then derelict plant. The company
has used this report to assert the absence of any
danger. However, one of the confidential documents
now available shows that Union Carbide itself placed
no trust in the NEERI data. This [NEERI] study
seems to implicitly clear the plant site
itself. However, I would advise caution in using the
we do not know the exact sample and
analytical protocols used.
by comment about contamination in the local press
Carbide hastily conducted its own private investigation
and found evidence of massive pollution. It did not
make these findings public. They have been uncovered
for the first time by the "discovery" process
in the New York court action.
DEAD FISH FOR EXCERPT OF CARBIDE DOCUMENT
publicly quoting NEERI's study, Carbide carried
out its own emergency investigation and found
severe poisoning of land and water. Samples
taken near the factory wall adjacent to a
nearby settlement caused 100% toxicity in
fish. The company did not make these findings
public and never warned local people that
their drinking wells might be poisoned. Dow-Carbide
continues to assert to this day that there
is no danger to local drinking water.
Carbide publicly cited a flawed study to mislead local
residents and the [Madhya Pradesh State] government
on the extent of the water and soil contamination,
Sathyu Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information
and Action (BGIA) remarked today. But they hid
their own studies from public view, because their
own studies show that by 1989 the local water was
key document, an internal company study entitled the
Presence of Toxic Ingredients In Soil/Water
Samples Inside Plant Premises, gives a frightening
insight into the cover-up perpetuated by Union Carbide.
The seriousness of the issue needs no elaboration.
Samples drawn in June-July 89 from land-fill
areas and effluent treatment pits inside the plant
were sent to R and D. They consisted nine soil/solid
samples and eight liquid samples. The solid samples
had organic contamination varying from 10% to 100%
and contained known ingredients like napthol and naphthalene
in substantial quantities. Majority of the liquid
samples contained napthol and/or Sevin in quantities
far more than permitted by ISI for onland disposal.
All samples caused 100% mortality to fish in toxicity
assessment studies and were to be diluted several
fold to render them suitable for survival of fish.
The documents further reveal that following the fatal
gas leak in Bhopal, Union Carbide Corporation had
decided to wash its hands of the factory and was anxious
to off-load it onto the Madhya Pradesh State Government
with the land still contaminated, in violation of
the original lease. In order to facilitate the hand-over,
the company undertook some cosmetic remediation work
which has done nothing to diminish the danger of contamination.
Plans to dispose of toxic wastes by burning them in
the factory (thus sending toxic smoke drifting over
local communities) show that Union Carbide was willing
to impose even more risks on the very same communities
its factory had decimated in 1984.
study commissioned by Carbide from Arthur D Little
warned that pollution of the underground aquifer (which
feeds drinking water wells) could be happening at
a rate far faster than imagined. In a worst case scenario,
it could take as little as two years to contaminate
the aquifer. That was in 1997.
A Greenpeace report published in 1999 found severe
contamination of the factory site, surrounding land
and ground-water. Levels of mercury in some places
were six million times higher than expected. Drinking
water wells near the factory used by local people
were heavily polluted with chemicals known to produce
cancers and genetic defects. (Note
2002 study by the Fact Finding Mission on Bhopal found
lead, mercury and organochlorines in the breast milk
of nursing mothers.
"Carbide has never shown any interest in the
condition of its victims," said Sunil Kumar,
who lost his entire family during the original gas
leak. "We've always known that. Now it seems
they know that their factory is poisoning a whole
new generation - and they are doing nothing to stop
it. People are ill in the communities. Babies are
sick. There are many deformed births. It's as if they
really hate us. As if they are trying to punish us
for protesting when they gassed us before and killed
our families. What kind of people are they to do this?"
Survivors organisations stress the need for medical
assessment, monitoring and treatment of those affected
by contamination; and due redress for those whose
health and livelihoods have been damaged by this second
attack by the company on their lives.
Last month Greenpeace issued guidelines for cleaning
up the Bhopal site to an internationally accepted
standard. The proposals were presented to Madhya Pradesh
Chief Minister Digvijay Singh, who has announced that
his government will petition the Supreme Court to
make an order forcing Dow Chemical (the new 100% owner
of Union Carbide) to pay for the clean-up of the site.
According to independent experts, this could cost
the company up to $500 million.
Please keep checking www.bhopal.net for latest
news, information and Carbide documents
Source: Surviving Bhopal 2002: Toxic Present Toxic
Future, report published January 2002 by the Fact-Finding
Mission on Bhopal (FFMB). Found breast milk contaminated
with organochlorines such as 1,3,5 Trichlorobenzene,
dichloromethane, chloroform, lead and mercury.
did not just happen on December 3rd, 1984, it is continuing
to happen to those who were unfortunate to live in
its vicinity on that fateful day. Not only this generation
but the next generations too stands to be contaminated
and poisoned by the disaster. Not only is the soil,
but also groundwater, vegetables as well as mothers
breast milk has found to be contaminated."
Source: The Bhopal Legacy, Greenpeace, 1999.
"Sample IT9012, collected from a drain directly
beneath the plant, contained free mercury at 12% of
the overall weight of the sample (between 20,000 and
6 million times higher than might be expected as background)."