Bayer rejects PCB contamination claim by City of Oslo

Author: Russell Ong

2003/01/22

LONDON (CNI)--German chemicals giant Bayer said Wednesday it has rejected a demand by the city of Oslo in Norway to pay for the removal of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination in the city's harbour.

Oslo has made a total claim of Euro7m ($7.5m) against Bayer and two other chemical companies - Solutia in Belgium and Japan’s Kaneka. The city has estimated the total cost of cleaning up contaminated sediment in Oslo's harbour at about Euro13m. Bayer has been asked to pay Euro3.5m and Solutia and Kaneka Euro1.75m each.

According to environment group Friends of the Earth (FoE), about half of the PCBs in Oslo harbour have been traced back to Bayer with the rest originating from the two other two producers.

Bayer said it rejected the Oslo claim after a careful study. It said PCB residues are said to have been found, in particular, near former shipyards where sandblasting and paint spraying appears to have caused a complex type of environmental pollution.

However, it said old paint removed from ships should have been collected and disposed of in a proper manner and this was not a matter over which it had any influence.

It added that PCB is only one of the pollutants found in Oslo harbour. Bayer also said the method used by Oslo to ascribe the PCB types found to specific manufacturers, the so-called fingerprint method, have 'little scientific basis'.

Tom Erik Okland of FoE Norway commented: “A Norwegian lawsuit will be considered if the PCB producers do not voluntarily participate in the cost-sharing scheme. Our investigation has firmly established that the main sources of PCBs to Oslo harbour have been ship painting and sandblasting at the shipyards.

“The named PCB producers supplied PCBs for ship paint, but failed to inform the shipyards about the environmental hazards involved. Such information could have prevented most of the PCB pollution along the coast.”

Kaneka has denied any responsibility while US-headquartered Solutia has not yet responded to the claims.