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GREENPEACE FINDS GROUNDWATER TOXICITY

Fifteen years after gross negligence at the Union Carbide
pesticides factory in Bhopal led to the biggest industrial
disaster of all time, Union Carbide is once again on the
defensive.

A report on the groundwater in Bhopal by Greenpeace, the
independent environmental watchdog, released just days before the
15th anniversary of the disaster on December 3, reveals dangerous
levels of contamination of the city's groundwater which is hand-
pumped up for use by local residents. The Greenpeace report is a
damning indictment of Union Carbide's continuing irresponsibility
and the government's inability to protect its citizens' health.

Testing groundwater samples in areas near the deserted
factory Greenpeace found mercury levels up to two million
times the normal level. Also found were heavy concentrations of
organochlorides and heavy metals that could cause cancer and
damage vital organs like the kidney, the liver and the brain.

The Greenpeace report is based on samples taken in May 1999
and only confirms findings of earlier studies. Greenpeace clearly
has Union Carbide worried, because the company is said to be
preparing a reply to Greenpeace, a departure from its policy of
ignoring all criticism.

A study by National Environmental Engineering Research
Insitute (NEERI), India's premier environmental agency, for
Arther D. Little, acting as consultants for Union Carbide, in
November 1993 found high concentrations of dangerous pesticides
in groundwater samples, the contamination increasing with depth
of sample.

Earlier reports have also reached similar conclusions, yet
senior Madhya Pradesh government officials deny knowledge of all
such reports (copies of which have personally been seen by this
correspondent) and claim that NEERI studies have not shown any
traces of toxic materials in groundwater. The state secretary for
Gas Relief, D S Misra, claimed that none of the reports prepared
for the state pollution control board by NEERI since 1990 have
shown any signs of groundwater contamination by toxins though he
was unable to show such reports.

Much of the evidence from these reports now also forms part
of a criminal liabiliity litigation under the US "Alien Torts
Claims Act" filed by several Bhopal based voluntary organisations
against Union Carbide. While there is a case filed against Union
Carbide in Indian courts, the company has chosen not to respond
to that in any way. If successfully fought, the case in the US
could once again make the company pay for the damage caused to
people's lives.

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