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Greens furious at 'toxic fleet' plan

29th July 2003

By The Journal

A deal to bring 13 ageing US Navy ships to the North for dismantling was attacked by environmentalists last night.

Able UK says the contract would create around 200 jobs at its centre in Greatham, near Hartlepool, but campaigners warn that the ships contain dangerous substances, including asbestos and cancer-causing PCBs.

The asbestos and other materials containing PCBs will be disposed of at Seaton Meadows Landfill Site, near the yard firm's Graythorp site.

The vessels will be towed to the Teesside Environmental Reclamation and Recycling Centre, between August and October, from a river in Virginia.

Liberal Democrats last night urged the Government to carry out a risk assessment of the vessels - some of which have been in service since World War II - before they are allowed into UK waters.

Able UK managing director Peter Stephenson said only 4pc of the material on the 11,000-tonne ships was not recyclable and "less than 1pc" was asbestos.

He confirmed the carcinogenic liquid PCBs will be removed before the ships sail, but other materials containing the substance will be buried safely.

Mr Stephenson said: "Bodies such as Greenpeace have campaigned strongly over the need for proper standards for the disposal of redundant vessels and an end to either sinking them at sea or transporting them to developing countries where they are literally scrapped on the beach, with no proper controls or protection.

"When we have completed this satisfactorily we hope to go out for more and get some from Europe."

Greenpeace say even fixed PCBs can be dangerous if they leak into the ground or catch fire.

Senior toxic campaigner Mark Strutt said: "We oppose PCBs and asbestos being shipped from one developed country to another.” Teesside Green Party spokesman Peter Goodwin said: "It reflects the whole idea of Teesside being a last resting place for hazardous waste.

"Why should anybody need to bring rotting ships 4,000 miles across the Atlantic from the richest country in the world, which should be equipped to deal with its own waste?"

Greatham councillor James Allan said: "This will create jobs in a town with pretty high unemployment. Anything that brings jobs is good news. The only potential down-side is to do with safety. If you are dismantling ships, things have to be done properly."