BEIRUT: Following unverified reports of toxic and radioactive material illicitly buried in the district of Kesrouan, the Environment Ministry took steps to allay concerns and ensure there was no risk to the environment or residents of the area. A statement released by the ministry announced a letter had been sent to the director of the Lebanese Atomic Energy Commission, Bilal Nsouli, and to Mount Lebanon’s environmental public prosecutor to verify the claims and issue a report.
LAEC declined to comment and pledged to release more information at a later stage. The environmental public prosecutor in Mount Lebanon could not be reached for comment before going to print.
The Environment Ministry stressed that the verification procedure was set in motion in order to quell the unsubstantiated claims.
“The media frequently receives claims of hazardous waste buried in the groves in Kesrouan,” the statement read. Citing part of the letter it sent, the statement added, “The Environment Ministry wishes you to conduct an investigation to verify the accuracy of these claims.”
With hundreds of legitimate, legal uses of radioactive materials in everything from health care to industrial production and agriculture, Lebanon has long been an importer of radioactive material.
However, removing material after it is used up has been a challenge. Last year, LAEC, in tandem with the International Atomic Energy Agency, sent two high-activity disused sources to France. Three are scheduled for removal in 2018.
At the time, LEAC said there were only three of 45 identified radioactive sources remaining in Lebanon and the institution was hoping to declare the country free of radioactive material by May 2018, with the help of funds from Germany, France, the U.S. and Canada, via the IAEA.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 23, 2018, on page 2.