Ciba-Geigy..Now Part of BASF...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ciba‑Geigy Ltd. was a leading worldwide biological and chemicals group dedicated to satisfying needs in three diverse areas: healthcare, agriculture and industry.  In the Ocean State, one of the world's largest multinationals had been getting away with murder: killing the life of Narragansett Bay with its toxic wastes.  Ciba-Geigy's oldest U.S. chemical production plant in Cranston, Rhode Island is the Bay's worst polluter. Each day, the plant discharges 1.5 million gallons of virtually untreated toxic chemicals and heavy metals directly into the Pawtuxet River, a mile and a half from where it flows into the Bay.  A 1981 EPA study termed the Ciba-Geigy's wastes "acutely toxic" and found that half the test organisms exposed to the waste diluted ten times were killed within 48 hours.  Because of a 1976 agreement between the Swiss multinational, the EPA, and the city of Cranston, Ciba-Geigy has been allowed to ignore EPA rules on acceptable pollution levels and required treatment.  Ciba-Geigy's toxic waste has raised a good deal of concern in R.I. - particularly after March 25. That day, 72,000 pounds of highly toxic paracresol was spilled. Just one-half ounce of paracresol is lethal to humans if swallowed, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin. The plant had to be closed for a week during cleanup operations.

Now there' was a new cause for concern: the company's 1976 deal with the city of Cranston took effect on July 1, 1983, beginning the diversion of the plant's wastes to Cranston's sewage treatment facility.

But the town sewage plant, designed to treat sewage, cannot adequately handle toxic pollutants, said Greenpeace, an environmental group that had launched a national campaign against hazardous waste. After processing, Greenpeace said 20 percent of the toxics will remain in waste water discharged from the sewage plant into the Pawtuxet River. The sludge containing the other 80 percent of the toxics will be landfilled - possibly contaminating groundwater - until an incinerator is built in two to three years. Then the toxic sludge will be burned, adding to air pollution.

In protest of this deal, 20 Greenpeace activists paddled up the Pawtuxet River in canoes and rafts to the CibaGeigy plant on June 29. There they hoisted signs saying, "EPA and Ciba-Geigy, Working Together to Poison the Bay," and chained themselves to the waste discharge valves, temporarily stopping the flow of pollutants.