The president of Sierra Leone has apparently rejected a plan by a Colorado firm to export millions of tons of hazardous chemical waste from the United States for processing and disposal in the West African nation.
The proposal by the Nedlog Technology Group Inc., of Arvada, Colo., which included an offer of up to $25 million to Sierra Leone President Shiaka Stevens for permission to dump the waste, touched off a furor among several West African countries and raised concern among State Department officials here.
In a cable to the Sierra Leone embassy here Wednesday, Stevens said U.S. Ambassador John Linehan warned him this week of possible hazards from the disposal scheme. Stevens said in the cable that acceptance of the waste would be "foolhardy" in light of the dangers.
Officials of Sierra Leone said here yesterday that they were not familiar with details of the meeting between Stevens and Linehan. Diplomatic sources said, however, that it is not likely the waste disposal plan would be accepted.
In a telephone interview Nedlog President Thomas Clark said his company had not been informed of any official decision on its proposal. But Clark said he did not expect any approval of the plan after news reports about the dumping proposal caused a sharply negative reaction in several West African countries.
One newspaper in Lagos, Nigeria, called the proposal "nauseating" and accused Stevens of a willingness to poison the population of Sierra Leone. Students from Sierra Leone picketed here opposing the proposal while both Nedlog and the Sierra Leone embassy reported threatening telephone calls and bomb scares because of the plan.
The hazardous waste issue, which has gained publicity here because of problems surrounding chemical dumps such as the Love Canal in New York, has also drawn international attention recently.
Faced with the prospect of disposing of millions of tons of toxic waste generated in the United States each year, some companies have offered hundreds of dollars for every 55-gallon barrel that can be dumped legally. According to waste industry sources a number of private companies have approached countries in West Africa and the Caribbean seeking permits to dump the waste.
In a cable to several dozen U.S. embassies this week, the State Department said the most likely candidates for disposal sites included countries in West Africa. South and Central America, the Caribbean, East Asia and along the Mediterranean.
The State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency are seeking approval for regulations that would provide federal jurisdiction over shipments of hazardous waste out of the country.