Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for May 12, 2012

Newsline: Cleanup of Canadian embassies, official residences pose $7.7-billion toxic problem

Canada’s multibillion-dollar environmental liability for cleaning up polluted federal property stretches overseas, where nearly 130 international sites around the world – such as embassies and official residences – are on contaminated lands. The nearly 130 foreign locations are part of the more than 22,000 federal contaminated sites, highlighted in a new report this week by Canada’s environment commissioner, that will cost the government at least $7.7 billion to clean up. Canadian embassies, high commissions, official residences and other federal lands in countries such as the United Kingdom, Brazil, the United States, Sudan, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Egypt, Finland, Jordan, Mexico and Syria are listed on the federal government’s inventory of contaminated sites. While the cases of dozens of foreign sites are now considered closed (no further action is deemed required, but they’re not necessarily remediated), they are still listed as contaminated and remain on the federal inventory. Dozens more remain active and are in various stages of testing or remediation, although it’s uncertain how much they’ll cost the federal government to clean up. For example, the Canadian Embassy in Brazil, located in the capital of Brasilia, is listed as an active contaminated site that is currently in step three – an initial testing program – of a 10-stage process for identifying and cleaning up contaminated sites. Soil at the embassy site is contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons, which could also affect groundwater, according to the federal inventory. An initial review of the site has been completed and additional “detailed testing (is) underway,” explains a summary report. A suspected contaminated site on the list is the Canadian High Commission to the United Kingdom (Macdonald House), located in trendy Grosvenor Square in the heart of London, where one tonne of contaminants are located, says the registry. Initial testing is underway. Canada House, another part of the Canadian High Commission located in Trafalgar Square, has five tonnes of contaminated material, although no further action is required. More than 60 of the contaminated sites that the federal government is responsible for are located in the United States, with the United Kingdom next at 15 and Mexico at 11. The U.S. sites include official residences and staff quarters in Washington, San Francisco, New York City, Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago, Denver, Miami and Seattle – although the diplomatic residences had historical reviews completed (step two of the process), and it was deemed no further action was required. A number of the other American locations where more detailed reviews are being completed, or cleanup has already been conducted, are along Canada-U.S. land and water boundaries. Heavy metals and petroleum hydrocarbons are present in many of the contaminated U.S. sites.



Newsline: Swiss embassy won’t get involved in US congresswoman citizenship

The Swiss embassy in Washington is refusing to answer any questions about Thursday’s decision by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) to renounce her Swiss nationality. “The Embassy of Switzerland in Washington DC confirms that the Swiss Consulate in Chicago has received by e-mail a letter signed by Congresswoman Michele Bachmann asking that her Swiss citizenship be withdrawn,” reads a statement on the embassy’s website. “The Embassy does not comment on this private decision by Mrs. Bachmann.” Bachmann became a Swiss citizen on March 19 after her husband of 34 years, Marcus Bachmann, registered for the Swiss citizenship he’s entitled to as the son of Swiss nationals. The decision was prompted by Bachmann’s children’s decision to seek dual nationality, but it created a firestorm in the right-wing blogosphere after Swiss TV broke the story this week. “As Ms. Bachmann liked to brag about during the debates, she has been a member of the House Intelligence Committee,” Examiner conservative columnist Lori Stacey wrote Thursday. ”Again, our Founding Fathers must have just done flip-flops in their graves. All Americans should have a problem with any member of Congress, especially one on the House Intelligence Committee running out and becoming a citizen of another country.”