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11 Dec 2015

Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project

Ukraine: Soil contamination with hazardous waste "cleaned up" by S.I. Group Consort Ltd. exceeds legal limit thousand times, says new NGO report; firm denies allegations

Between 2011 and 2013, an Israeli company called S.I. Group Consort Ltd. won a series of contracts worth more than 1 billion Ukrainian hryvnia (about US$ 125 million at the time) to clean up a hazardous waste sludge pit near the Carpathian Mountains in western Ukraine. The government project was intended to safely dispose of cancer-causing chemicals stored near Kalush, a city of 67,600 people...The chemicals, a byproduct of the region’s potash mining, have been accumulating for nearly 30 years. Environmentalists say this toxic brew includes the known carcinogen hexachlorobenzene or HCB. S. I. Consort has declared that the area was successfully cleaned up...[N]o test results have been released that would prove this assertion...[I]ndependent tests completed in 2014 and paid for by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) found levels of HCB contamination several thousand times the legal limit...Marchevskiy, the major shareholder, denied any wrongdoing and would not comment on the test results obtained by OCCRP...While...Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast [region], where Kalush is located, boasts some of the lowest rates of cancer in Ukraine at 223-244 cases per 100,000 people, by contrast the city of Kalush and its immediate environs show some of the worst, at 293 cases per 100,000. Officials at the local clinic say many residents also suffer respiratory problems.