From the port of Abidjan, the waste was transferred to trucks and then carried to sites around the city, where it was emptied and spread out. More than 30,000 people say they were affected by the sludge cocktail, which had a characteristic rotten-egg smell. They currently are involved in legal action against the company, Trafigura, in Britain’s largest-ever group lawsuit. The case is due to be heard in October.
The company originally issued statements in 2006 denying the tanker was carrying toxic waste. Rather, it said, the ship contained routine “slops” – the dirty water from tank washing. On Wednesday, lawyers for Trafigura told the Guardian: “We have no intention of descending into a detailed debate as to the chemical composition of the ‘slops’.”
Such matters would be resolved at the high court trial, they told the newspaper, and Trafigura’s position was “the slops did not and cannot have caused the [at least 10] deaths and widespread illnesses which have been alleged”.
In the long-running and bitterly contested lawsuit, Trafigura has offered to pay anyone from Ivory Coast who can prove the toxic waste actually caused them to fall ill. Lawyers for the victims contend that the waste contained a lethal mix of ingredients, including a highly corrosive caustic soda.