A statement from federal authorities regarding a supposed boat loaded with hospital waste heading for Charleston leaves many questions unanswered.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service's Monday statement addresses the agency's approach to security but does not state whether a ship with 47 tons of medical waste really is en route from Brazil to Charleston.
Customs and Border Protection was asked last week about foreign news reports that maintain that dirty bedding, gowns, tubing, masks and syringes were sent in October from South Carolina to Brazil -- and were rejected because Brazil does not accept foreign trash. A ship returning the waste left Brazil in January, carrying the refused refuse back to the Port of Charleston, foreign media reports claim.
Locally the State Ports Authority referred questions to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which provided this statement: "CBP pursues a multi layered approach to security, segmenting cargo by potential risk and examining it as early as possible. When hazardous cargo is encountered, CBP works with the appropriate agencies to mitigate risk and follow protocols to ensure that all shipments that may pose a safety or security risk are handled in the appropriate manner."
She said she will inquire again about the supposed ship of waste. Asked if there's any reason to be concerned, Dabbs said, "I don't think it's a threat."
Adam Myrick, spokesman for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, said Wednesday that DHEC remains unable to confirm the existence of a waste-carrying ship. State law requires that DHEC be notified when any shipment of waste is entering the port, but no such notification has taken place, he said.
"Outside of media reports, I don't know that we have anything official" regarding the existence of the waste ship, Myrick said.
Fox News Latino on Jan. 23 reported that two days prior, a shipment left the port of Suape, headed to "the U.S. port of Charleston, South Carolina," with 46.6 tons of hospital waste that had been intercepted in October in the northeastern state of Pernambuco by customs agents.
"The hospital waste cargo consists of sheets, pillowcases, towels, used syringes, various hospital masks and tubes bearing the logos of U.S. hospitals," the news service reported.
The Latin American Herald Tribune picked up the story, and stated that along with the medical waste, customs authorities intercepted "another 14 containers containing 15 tons of 'suspicious' materials.' "
The Tribune said "The shipments came from a single exporter in South Carolina and were being sent to a textile company suspected of violating the national waste policy, which prohibits importation of trash from other countries."
In the import documentation for the containers, the shipment was described as being "defective cotton fabric," the Tribune said.