“Orphaned” Sites and Legacy Pollution

When people talk of tackling pollution, they usually mean stopping pollution. But what if the pollution has already been halted, in some cases decades ago?  For example at numerous former Cold War weapons manufacturing sites?

Ghana's Agbogbloshie e-wasteland

Ghana's Agbogbloshie e-wasteland

See examples of legacy polluted “orphaned” sites.

Very often, these sites are simply forgotten. Or they are caught in a legal quagmire as different parties argue over who is responsible for the cleanup. In some cases, the original polluters are unknown or untraceable.  In other cases they are bankrupt or defunct and are unable to pay for cleanup. Sometimes, a large number of operators contributed to the pollution, making liability for cleanup nearly impossible to enforce.

In the meantime, the contamination left behind continues to poison everyone who lives close by. This is legacy pollution and the sites affected are “orphaned” – left on their own, abandoned. While the act of polluting may have stopped at these sites, the pollution and the poisoning remain.

Blacksmith just received a $700,000 grant from the World Bank to tackle this problem so we can start taking care of these “orphans.”  Sometimes, what is needed is less confrontation and more cleanup.  We don’t care who the polluter is. The past is over.  We are looking to a cleaner future for these sites and a better legacy to leave behind.

Related Event:  ”Sodom and Gomorrah E-Wasteland” Jan. 19, 2012, 6 pm.  FREE.  RSVP to geoffrey@blacksmithinstitute.org. Hear what life is like in Ghana’s Agbogbloshie market, one of the largest e-waste dumpsites in the world.  Find out what is being done there and at other e-wastelands.

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