Press release, 21st January 2003

Historic claim against PCB producers

City of Oslo demands 7 million Euro from Bayer AG, Solutia and Kaneka in compensation for harbour clean-up

The City of Oslo, Department of Environment, has directed a claim of
7 million Euros to three multinational chemical companies responsible for severe contamination with Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) in the Oslo fjord. - A historic claim. This is an important step towards establishing the principle of extended producers' responsibility, says Tom Erik Okland (1) of Friends of the Earth Norway. FoEN has advocated the principle for several years.

About half of the PCBs in Oslo harbour have been traced back to German chemical giant Bayer AG. The rest originates from two other producers, Belgium based Solutia (chemical division of multinational Monsanto) and the Japanese Kaneka Corporation. In a letter to Bayer AG the City of Oslo has asked for a compensation of 3.5 million Euro to cover part of the clean-up of heavily contaminated sediments in Oslo harbour. Similar claims have been addressed to the two other companies.

Bayer AG has replied Oslo City that they will look into the claim. Kaneka has denied any responsibility. Solutia has not yet responded.

Wide parts of the Norwegian coast are heavily contaminated with PCBs. This is well documented by Norwegian Pollution Control Authorities and Friends of the Earth. In several areas the use of seafood is restricted or forbidden. The massive clean-up operations necessary are estimated to cost a total of 3.5 billion Euro.

Oslo City is backed up by Friends of the Earth Norway, Norway's largest environmental organisation and environmental lawyers and experts. Tom Erik Okland, of Friends of the Earth 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.

Comments, background material, and copies of the letters from Oslo City:
- Per-Erik Schulze, Tel: +47 22 40 24 00 , +47 95 17 94 22
- Kare Olerud, Tel: +47 22 40 24 00, +47 950 73 320

(1) Tom Erik Okland, tel: +47 97 56 17 36, will be available in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands this week for the media