As Olena Cholovska approaches the crumbling brick warehouse, she
sighs. The cold wind whipping her scarf around her head blows toxic
greenish powder into the nearby cabbage fields.
"A year ago we were here and all the doors were still here," says
Ms. Cholovska, the director of the Lviv Plant Inspection Station in
Lviv Oblast, an administrative region in western Ukraine that
The villagers who made off with the derelict warehouse's metal
and wooden doors - most likely to burn them or sell them for scrap -
may have had no idea that they were intended to protect locals from
a stockpile of pesticides that date back to Soviet times.
The abundance of toxic pesticides is not unique to this rural,
northwestern region of Ukraine, an hour south of the city of Lviv.
In a country about the size of Texas, the United Nations estimates
that about 4,000 dumps house nearly 20,000 tons of obsolete
pesticides. The potentially lethal waste hurts Ukraine's
agricultural potential, especially when it comes to exporting
produce to the expanding European Union (EU).
A few years ago, Cholovska says there were about 200 pesticide
dumps in Lviv Oblast. Now, thanks to the efforts of about 25
Ukrainians working on behalf of universities, institutes, and local
agencies, the number of dumps has been reduced to only 169.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is spearheading a
project to help clean up the country, but officials on the ground
face numerous challenges from locals' lack of awareness and
"Some people have tried to put fences around the sites and they
just take the fences," says Margaret Jones, an EPA pesticides
scientist from Chicago who has visited some of the sites. "They saw
one local guy running through the woods with literally the last
brick from one of the sites. That brick is going to build something
else and you hope it's not in someone's home."
The EPA, working with the State Department and the US Agency for
International Development, is sponsoring demonstration projects to
educate Ukrainians about the dangers of harmful pesticides. Over the
past three years, some of the US government's $300,000 in aid has
also gone toward computers and Internet access for Ukrainian
government offices, some of which lack heat and electricity.
The bulk of Ukraine's left-over pesticides are classified by the
EPA as persistent organic pesticides (POPs). …