Carbide capable of "oustanding environmental quality"???
Write and tell them what you think……

On April 18th 2000 the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented Union Carbide Corporation with it's highest award, the Environmental Quality Award (see http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/000418/ct_epa_uni_1.html). EPA Administrator Jeanne Fox said "the award is presented to those companies… who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to protecting and enhancing environmental quality in its region."

Clearly she hasn’t read the newspapers, because on 2nd December 1999 Greenpeace International declared the old Union Carbide factory site in Bhopal, India a "global toxic hotspot". Greenpeace came to this conclusion after testing groundwater and soil samples in and around the factory site*. They found heavy concentrations of carcinogenic chemicals and heavy metals like mercury. Mercury has been found at between 20,000 to 6 million times the expected levels. Twelve volatile organic compounds, most greatly exceeding EPA standard limits, were found to have seeped and continue to seep into the water supplies of an estimated 20, 000 people in local communities (see side bar). Municipal authorities have found water from over 100 tube wells to be unfit for drinking. Yet survivors of the Union Carbide Gas disaster, already suffering a range of illnesses, have no choice but to drink, wash and cook with this water every day.

Volatile organic chemicals were found in these exact quantities in a water well of the Atul Ayub Nagar community in Bhopal, just north of the Union Carbide factory.

Chemical compound

no. of times greater than EPA limits

Chief effects on health

1, 2-Dichlorobenzene

5

Reported to induce anaemia, leukemia, skin lesions, vomiting, headaches, weight loss, yellow atrophy of the liver, kidney damage and chromosomal aberrations.

1, 4-Dichlorobenzene

11

Tetrachloroethene

9

Shown to increase risk of leukemia, bladder cancer, oesophogal cancer, cervical cancer, skin cancer and liver and kidney tumours.

Trichloroethene

50

Drinking small amounts may cause liver and kidney damage, nervous system effects, impaired immune function and impaired foetal development in pregnant women.

Chloroform

260

Has a carcinogenic effect on the liver, kidneys and/or intestine. Causes miscarriages and lowers sperm counts.

Carbon Tetrachloride

682

According to the EPA (’97) can cause cancer. High exposure can cause liver, kidney and central nervous system damage, including the brain. Causes headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. In severe cases coma and even death can occur.

How did so much contamination happen in the first place? We might imagine that chemical corporations, with vast wealth at their disposal, use sophisticated high technology to rid themselves of waste materials generated by production. Indeed in 1997, presidential candidate Al Gore, who has mentioned the problem of international waste trade in his recent book, gave Carbide and the EPA his Hammer Award for their partnership role in the EPA's Environmental Technology Initiative for Chemicals. But the contamination in Union Carbide’s Bhopal factory happened because workers were told to dig a hole, dump the waste chemicals in the hole and then cover it over. So much for environmental technology, and so much for Mr. Gore’s award: basic research would have revealed that in 1990 the Citizens Environmental Laboratory, Boston reported on the toxic chemicals in the Bhopal site, as did the official State Research Laboratory of the Public Health Engineering Department in 1986 and 1991 and the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute in 1994.

For some time survivor’s groups have been asking Union Carbide to clean up the Bhopal factory site they polluted so that local 
people can drink uncontaminated water again. Union Carbide - who in 1996 were included in the EPA's Pollution Prevention 
Recognition Programme because their ‘environmentally preferable TRITON SP surfactants’ represented "a significant 
innovation in surfactant chemistry, one that greatly reduces the risk to the aquatic environment" – don’t reply. 

If Union Carbide won’t listen to the survivors of their gas disaster, perhaps they’ll listen to us, or to Al Gore or the EPA. 
Please complete the following letters and send them to the addresses listed below. Feel free to make changes and 
add your own views.

*The Bhopal Legacy, Greenpeace Research Laboratories, University of Exeter, Nov. ‘99

Letter number 1

Dear Mr. Al Gore
         
On April 18th Union Carbide Corporation apparently received the EPA’s ‘Environmental Quality Award’ for "outstanding 
commitment to protecting and enhancing environmental quality in its region." And in 1997, you Mr. Gore gave Union Carbide 
and the EPA your ‘Hammer Award’ for their partnership role in the EPA's ‘Environmental Technology Initiative for Chemicals’.
I believe there are facts that make these awards preposterous.

In November1999 Greenpeace called Union Carbide’s factory site in Bhopal, India a "global toxic hotspot". After testing 
samples from the site they found heavy concentrations of carcinogenic chemicals and heavy metals like mercury. The 
contamination came about because Union Carbide’s technological initiative in managing chemical waste was to dig a few holes 
and bury everything in the grounds of the factory. It doesn’t take much know how to realise that the chemical waste would one 
day seep into the groundwater serving local communities. And 20 000 people living in Bhopal would argue that having to drink 
water containing up to 682 times the EPA standards of highly carcinogenic Carbon Tetrachloride has not enhanced the 
‘environmental quality’ in their region. Instead it is compounding their injuries. 

Union Carbide has an appalling environmental record. The company has ignored the requests from survivors of its 1984 gas 
disaster to clean up its old factory site so they can drink clean water again. You may argue that Union Carbide has only been 
rewarded for work they’ve done in the US; however modern science tells us that the environment is an interconnected thing. 
And a measure of character is how we treat those other than ourselves.
 
I feel that you, Mr. Gore, should first of all publicly retract the award you gave to Union Carbide in 1997 - the award given 
recently by the EPA should also be retracted at once. Second, as someone who has made the problem of international waste 
trade a campaign priority, you should demand Union Carbide take some initiative in cleaning up the toxic mess they deliberately 
left in Bhopal. Until the company cleans up the Bhopal site, any environmental award given to Union Carbide is dishonest and 
hypocritical.

I think an appropriate award to Union Carbide would be ________________________. 


Respectfully awaiting your reply,


TO:
Mr. Al Gore
Vice President of the United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington DC 20500
Tel. (202) 456-1414  Fax. (202) 456-2461
E-mail:   vice.president@whitehouse.gov

Letter number 2 (please fill in the names and addresses from the list given following this letter)

Dear ______________

On April 18th Union Carbide Corporation apparently received the EPA’s ‘Environmental Quality Award’ for "outstanding 
commitment to protecting and enhancing environmental quality in its region." And in 1997, Mr. Al Gore gave Union Carbide 
and the EPA his ‘Hammer Award’ for their partnership role in the EPA's ‘Environmental Technology Initiative for Chemicals’. 
I believe there are facts that make these awards preposterous.

In December 1999 Greenpeace called Union Carbide’s factory site in Bhopal, India a "global toxic hotspot". After testing 
samples from the site they found heavy concentrations of carcinogenic chemicals and heavy metals like mercury. The 
contamination came about because Union Carbide’s technological initiative in managing chemical waste was to dig a few holes 
and bury everything in the grounds of the factory. It doesn’t take much know how to realise that the chemical waste would one 
day seep into the groundwater serving local communities. And 20 000 people living in Bhopal would argue that having to drink 
water containing up to 682 times the EPA standards of highly carcinogenic Carbon Tetrachloride has not enhanced the 
‘environmental quality’ in their region. Instead it is compounding their injuries.

Union Carbide has an appalling environmental record. The company has ignored the requests from survivors of its 1984 gas 
disaster to clean up its old factory site so they can drink clean water again. You may argue that Union Carbide has only been 
rewarded for work they’ve done in the US; however modern science tells us that the environment is an interconnected thing. 
Therefore the EPA should prioritise environmental protection abroad, as well as home. I think the award given by you, Ms. 
Fox, on behalf of* the EPA should be publicly retracted at once. Until the company cleans up the Bhopal site, any 
environmental award given to Union Carbide is dishonest and hypocritical.

I think an appropriate award to Union Carbide would be ________________________. 

*delete as applicable

Respectfully awaiting your reply,
Address list

1

Jeanne M. Fox
Regional Administrator
US EPA Region II
290 Broadway
New York, NY 10007-1866 USA
Tel 212 637 3000 Fax 212 637 5024
(Try) E-mail:   fox.jeanne@epa.gov
2 Timothy Fields, Jr.
Assistant Administrator for Solid Waste & Emergency Response (OSWER)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
USEPA Headquarters
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N. W.
Washington, DC 20460
E-mail:    fields.tim@epa.gov
(He is responsible for Superfund and hazardous waste clean ups)
3 Mr. William Joyce
Chairman, President and CEO
Union Carbide Corporation
39 Old Ridgebury Road
Danbury, CT 06817
You can paste the letter into Carbide’s e-mail portal at:
http://www.ucarbide.com/contact.html
4 Tomm F. Sprick
Manager, Corporate Communications
UNION CARBIDE CORPORATION
Corporate Communications Department
39 Old Ridgebury Rd.,
Section L4-505, Danbury, CT 06817-0001
Tel: (203) 794-6992; Fax: 7031
E-mail:   spricktf@ucarb.com
5 Subcommittee on Health and Environment
Representative Michael Bilirakis, Chairman
House Committee on Commerce
2125 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
6 Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Subcommittee on Clean Air, Wetlands, Private Property, and Nuclear Safety
Senator James M. Inhofe, Chairman
410 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510-6175