Leaders seek action over Kwajalein military pollution
A senator from Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands, David Paul, says chemical contamination of fish there is a public health concern of epic proportion.
A senator from Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands, David Paul, says chemical contamination of fish there is 'a public health concern of epic proportion.'
Mr Paul was speaking ahead of this week's annual Marshall Islands-United States defence consultations in Majuro.
Our correspondent says the contamination issue was on the agenda following the release last year of United States Army reports that showed significant levels of PCBs - polychlorinated biphenyls - in the waters around the US missile defence base on the atoll.
Giff Johnson told Don Wiseman about the impact of the pollution on Marshall Islanders.
GIFF JOHNSON: The big problem is that Marshallese eats the whole fish, so their exposure is way way higher than an American or a non island person, who wouldn't eat as much of the fish. So apparently they are hundreds of times in excess of US safety standards and the Marshall Islands, and Kwajalein senators particularly, are pushing the Army, they want to get an epidemiological study going they want a much more detailed look at the fish contamination issue. Not just at one or two islands but like around the atoll. I think they want independent scientists to take a look at the Army studies to give advice on what the next step should be.
DON WISEMAN: They've had the talks, what's been the outcome?
GJ: The Army has put in - they've banned fishing in the areas where there was high contamination. So now it's really a matter of this meeting I think for the first time put it as a priority on everyone's agenda and when the reports came out last year they came out during the national election period, and they just didn't get any traction, unfortunately. Now it seems they are getting traction, and what that means essentially is by getting the Army to see this is a priority for the government here and the Kwajalein leaders that there now will be discussions going forward to do more of this work, and particularly informing people more. I know that one of the Kwajalein senators is really pushing for an epidemiological study, he wants to look at the levels of ingestion of contaminated fish, you can say the fish is contaminated but by looking at people you might be able to find alot more about the contamination levels are in people who have been eating these fish.
DW: Since the reports came out have there been any efforts to reduce or stop pollution?
GJ: The main thing that I understand that the army's done is banning fishing in the area. I'm not aware of a lot of work thats been done. This is a harbour industrial areas. I know that years ago in Majuro and other islands in the country the US Environmental Protection Agency came out here, and took all the P.C.B laden electric transformers and took them all to the U.S to dispose them properly, because the threat of P.C.B contamination is such a serious hazard. So for us it's a bit surprising that we're finding this much P.C.B contamination at the base, but there it is and that's where it's at, at this point. The army has held a couple of public meetings in the last few weeks, both at Kwajalein and Ebeye the island where about 10 thousand Marshall Islanders live, several miles away from the base, many of whom work at the Army base. So news is now getting out on this, but I think a lot more obviously needs to be done on it.
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