Struggling Iraqi refineries dump oil byproduct near Tigris River

The government of Iraq has been disposing of millions of barrels of oil refinery byproduct by pumping it into mountain valleys in the north of the country and setting it on fire. The result: huge black bogs and thick smoke carried as far as 40 miles downwind. The oily bogs are threatening to seep into the nearby Tigris River and the groundwater that sustains villages in the area. The byproduct, called black oil, would normally be exported for further refining, but insurgents have stalled government-controlled exports; insurgent presence is also cited as a barrier to safe removal of the black oil. Oil refining is important for the fragile Iraqi economy. “Unless we find a way of dealing with the fuel oil, our factories will not work,” says Shamkhi H. Faraj of the Iraqi Oil Ministry. American reconstruction efforts have not as yet found a way to deal with the problem, but we understand some schools have been painted.