World Bank and Blacksmith Institute Partner to Take Care of "Orphaned" Toxic Polluted Sites

Blacksmith Institute just received a $700,000 grant from the World Bank to tackle legacy pollution - toxic pollution left over from past industrial activities like mining and smelting.

The partnership was triggered by concerns from governments and local communities at the lack of action to deal with toxic legacy pollution.

Read the press release here.

Many of these sites are "orphaned" - they have no agency with clear responsibility for cleanup. In some cases, the original polluters are unknown or untraceable, are bankrupt or are now-defunct state entities. In other cases, a large number of operators contributed to the pollution, making liability for cleanup nearly impossible to enforce.

Examples of Legacy Polluted Sites:

Dzerzhinsk, Russia - Pollution Left Behind From Cold-War Era Chemical Weapons Manufacturing
The legacy of Cold War weapons programs has left environmental blackspots throughout the former Soviet Union, but Dzerzhinsk is by far the worst. The city's own environmental agency estimates that almost 300,000 tons of chemical waste - including some of the most dangerous neurotoxins known to man - were improperly dumped in Dzerzhinsk between 1930 and 1998. Parts of the city's water are infected with dioxins and phenol at levels that are reportedly 17 million times the safe limit. The Guinness Book of World Records named Dzerzhinsk the most chemically polluted city on Earth, and in 2003 its death rate exceeded its birth rate by 260%. (from Time Magazine about Blacksmith's 2007 List of World's Worst Polluted Places)

Ranipet, India - Pollution leftover From Closed-Down Chemical Factory
Ranipet is located about 100 miles from Chennai, the fourth largest urban area in India. The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) estimates that about 227,000 tons of untreated chromate sludge has been dumped on the premises of a closed chemical plant. The toxic waste, stacked in an open yard about three to five meters high on 2 hectares of land, has severely contaminated the ground and surface water, which flows into agricultural fields. In a community near the closed-down factory, over a dozen wells and 25 public hand pumps have been abandoned due to high levels of chromium in the water. There is widespread fear that if this pollution is left unchecked, the Palar basin, the main drinking water source in the region, could also be contaminated. The Geological Survey of India has reported contamination of ground water up to a distance of 1.5 miles from the factory site. About 250,000 people are at risk from this legacy pollution.

Agbogbloshie, Ghana - Pollution from E-Waste Dumping With No Clear Responsible Party
Agbogbloshie is one of the main hubs for e-waste in West Africa and the largest in Ghana. Informal workers, including men, women and a significant number of children, earn meagre livelihoods by recovering metals from e-waste. They crudely break, smash or burn discarded circuit boards and cathode ray tubes, and burn cables and wires to recover the copper inside. The fires, fed with old car tires and insulation foam from dismantled refrigerators, produce heavy black smoke and release toxins into the air, including lead, cadmium, and dioxins. The area is densely populated and suffers a high rate of child mortality and morbidity. Although Agbogbloshie is an active e-waste recycling site, there are legacy components. Moreover, it is a site where no clear party is willing or able to take responsibility for cleanup. Read a first hand account from Agbogbloshie at The Pollution Blog.

Meycauayan, Bulacan, Philippines - Pollution Remaining At Site of Former Used Lead-Acid Battery Recycling and Manufacturing Plant
A former lead acid battery manufacturing and recycling plant in Meycauayan City has been a significant source of lead contamination in an area near the Meycauayan-Marilao-Obando River System that feeds directly to Manila Bay. Lead levels in soil at the former site have been recorded in the range of 1,500-200,000 ppm, which far exceeds the 400 ppm U.S. EPA standard. The legacy site is surrounded by three communities. Toxic lead has contaminated crops and vegetables grown in the area and contaminated the soil, where the houses of poor families are built and children play. Moreover, some residents salvage materials such as lead-contaminated battery casings for use as flooring in their homes.