ANKARA (AA) – The U.S. announced on Monday that the Syrian chemical weapons, the use of which shocked the world and brought Obama to the brink of involvement in the country’s civil war a year ago, have now been destroyed.
It took the UN months to negotiate to get the weapons out of the country. In early July, they were loaded onto a specially equipped U.S. ship, Cape Ray which turned the chemical weapons into chemical waste through hydrolysis, a chemical process in which water is added to a substance, while aloat in the Mediterranean.
The stock pile, which has now turned into effluent — polluted water with slight toxicity — will be shipped to Finland and Germany, where it will most likely become ash, Michael Luhan, Head of the Media and Public Affairs of Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical weapons (OPCW) told the Anadolu Agency on Tuesday.
Once it arrives in Finland and Germany, the toxic water or waste will be destroyed with incineration, a method of converting waste to ash, flue gas or heat, in the coming weeks. This will be done by hazardous waste disposal company Ekokem in Finland and a government facility in Germany.
”It’s just like cigarette ash,” Luhan said, noting that the process of incinerating the waste could take up to four months. Although there are many variations to the incineration process, the treated gas to the atmosphere through an induced-draft fan and stack, according to the Committee on Health Effects of Waste Incineration. He added he didn’t know what would happen to the remains after the incineration process.
According to a 2006 report by Oxford Journals of Public Health, incineration is a considerable public concern, which could affect the mental, physical and emotional health of local residents living the incineration site.
Greenpeace also reports that incineration is ”not a solution to the world’s waste problems, but part of the problem” because it ”does not dispose of the toxic substances contained in the waste.” The same report said incinerators create dioxins, a toxic substance that can cause developmental problems.
Although Ekokem in Finland and the government facility in Germany were chosen after bidding against 14 countries at the beginning of 2014 for the contract to incinerate the chemical waste, Norway was one of the requested countries by the U.S. to do the job. However, it turned down the offer.
”Norway never had any chemical warfare program or stockpile, so it’s never had to destroy these kind of highly toxic chemicals,” Luhan said.
Norway was considered a desirable location because it has a very good number of port facilities where the chemical weapons could be unloaded and shipped to destruction facilities, but also because it is has a lot of fresh water, which is important for hydrolysis, according to Luhan.
”But Norway simply decided that it was going to be legally, into the degree, politically too complicated,” Luhan said. ”And informed the OPCW that unfortunately it was not going to be able to comply with the request.”
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