Beirut, September 21st 2000 – Greenpeace today demanded an answer from the Ministry of Environment regarding its failure to fulfil the commitment made to pressure the Lebanese Chemical Company (LCC) to state, by WHEN, its plan to implement measures to curb the toxic pollution it is pumping into the Mediterranean Sea daily.

During a Greenpeace protest held two weeks ago against the Lebanese Chemical Company’s (LCC) pollution in Selaata, the Director General at the Ministry for Environment, Berj Hatjian, stated that the Ministry will demand an assessment from LCC including plans to reduce pollution. For the first time, the Ministry publicly admitted that a grave problem exists in Selaata.

Greenpeace today exposed a report on LCC commissioned by the Ministry of Environment that confirms the hazards to public health and the environment that the international environmental organisation has been pointing to. The report, entitled “Free Trade and the Environment in Lebanon – Case study on the Chemicals and Agro-Food Industries”, was prepared by Envirotech Ltd, a Lebanese consulting firm and requested by the United Nations Development programme – Capacity 21 and the Ministry of Environment. It confirms the presence of heavy metals and other toxic substances such as cadmium, nickel and lead in the company’s discharged waste.

The report includes figures dating back to 1998 but has never been made public. It concludes that the production practices used at LCC, especially the production of raw materials such as phosphoric and sulphuric acid, are causing extreme levels of pollution. The report also predicts that the burden to the environment will increase as the production capacity at LCC increases.

The chemical (and mainly the phosphate) industry was chosen as a case study for the report due to the import of highly noxious and dangerous raw materials (sulphur and phosphate) and the production of highly polluting intermediary products (sulphuric and phosphoric acid) and the production of high air, water and sea-polluting effluents (Phosphogypsum and Gaseous Fluoride (HF)).

The report also reveals the contradiction between LCC’s annual production figures, reported to be 130 thousand tonnes in 1998 and related export figures at the Lebanese Customs department, which show 230 thousand tonnes for the same year.

LCC produced 60 thousand tonnes of phosphoric acid in 1998, this means that 270 thousand tonnes of phosphogypsum were discharged into the Mediterranean in 1998 alone. (1)

“It is outrageous that the Ministry for Environment is still refusing to take measures to stop LCC’ pollution in the interest of public health and the environment. Green rhetoric and empty promises will not deliver the changes that the public has every right to demand. We are demanding that the Ministry for Environment must address these legitimate concerns immediately by taking action to stop the toxic discharges,” said Zeina Al- Hajj.

Greenpeace is demanding an emergency action plan to save Selaata Bay. The government should set a priority to stop the industrial pollution along the coast. A first step would be for the Ministry to fulfil another promise made to ratify the Barcelona Convention Protocols and implement measures that will effectively safeguard the Mediterranean Sea from toxic pollution.

For more information:

Zeina al-Hajj, Greenpeace campaigner in Lebanon, on mobile 00 961 3 755100 or Greenpeace Mediterranean office in Lebanon on 00961 1 785665

Caroline Muscat, Campaign & Communications Director, on 00356 9429964

ATTENTION EDITORS: The report “Free Trade and the Environment in Lebanon – Case study on the Chemicals and Agro-Food Industries” written in English is available at the Greenpeace office in Beirut for any inquiry

1. For every tonne of phosphoric acid is accompanied by the production of 41/2 tonnes of the by-product calcium sulfate, also known as phosphogypsum