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The worst case of oil pollution on the planet PDF Print E-mail
texacoChevron-Texaco in the Ecuadorian amazon region:
Chevron is responsible for creating toxic contamination 30 times larger than the Exxon Valdez Probably the largest oil-related environmental catastrophe in the world exists quietly in the Amazon rainforest, threatening to wipe out five indigenous groups largely out of sight of the world's media.

In an isolated part of Ecuador, Chevron dumped billions of gallons of toxic wastewater into the rainforest from 1964 to 1992 while operating hundreds of oil wells. Today, this waste threatens five indigenous groups with extinction and has created what experts believe could be the worst environmental disaster on the planet other than Chernobyl. Chevron intentionally discharged into Ecuador's rainforest more than 30 times the amount of oil spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster. Much to Chevron's dismay, 30,000 rainforest dwellers stood up to this corporate goliath and filed a historic class-action lawsuit in Ecuador against the company in 2003. The lawsuit (Aguinda v. ChevronTexaco) has the potential to set an important legal precedent that could benefit millions of vulnerable people worldwide. The case is the first in history where rainforest tribes have been able to gain jurisdiction in their own courts over a large American oil company. The rainforest dwellers assert that Chevron systematically dumped 18.5 billion gallons of highly carcinogenic toxic waste into unlined pits, swamps, streams, and rivers. The resulting disaster—dubbed the "Rainforest Chernobyl" by locals—is connected to numerous deaths from cancer and an untold number of spontaneous miscarriages and genetic malformations. Once a pristine rainforest, the area where Chevron operated is now filled with more than 1,000 toxic waste pits and hundreds of swamps and streams filled with oil muck. Some of the waste pits are the size of a football field, and many contain the carcasses of cows and horses that have fallen into the pits and asphyxiated.

crude_reflections_20p Over the years, the toxic contents of the waste pits have leeched into the groundwater, streams and rivers, contaminating the larger ecosystem and sending toxins downstream into Peru. Since there are no other options for obtaining water, local people now depend on these contaminated sources for drinking water. Thousands of people are slowly poisoning themselves several times daily as they consume the water, bathe in local waterways, and breathe the vapors in the air from the pits. Childhood leukemia rates are four times higher in this area than in other parts of Ecuador; children as young as a few months of age have died of leukemia.

What Chevron did in Ecuador was the direct result of the company's decision to prioritize short-term profits over people's lives and the environment. To further increase profits in Ecuador, the company decided not to dispose of the toxic waste by re-injecting it hundreds of feet back into the well cavity to protect the environment. The "re-injection" technology needed to do this was in use for decades in the United States at the time Chevron began drilling in Ecuador. By foregoing use of this cleaner technology, Chevron saved approximately $4.5 billion over the life of its operations in Ecuador. Despite these short-term gains, the long-term environmental and human costs are now almost too large to measure. Today, the affected tribes and communities are demanding that Chevron foot the $6 billion clean-up bill—a modest portion of the estimated $30 billion in profits that the company extracted from its dirty Ecuadorian operations.

crude_reflections_14p Although the rainforest dwellers affected by Chevron's toxic legacy can never fully be compensated for their suffering and loss, they hope to win their historic class-action lawsuit against the company so a comprehensive clean-up can take place. The trial has three phases: a proof period, where witnesses testify and evidence is presented; a judicial inspection period, where the judge and technical experts visit and assess the contaminated sites; and a period to determine clean-up costs. The trial is currently nearing an end, with only the cost assessment left to complete. Water and soil samples collected indicate extensive contamination at 100% of the sites inspected.

Chevron's trial strategy is to rely on technical defenses, including a release secured from Ecuador's government in 1995 after the company supposedly "remediated" a limited number of toxic waste pits. Chevron's "remediation" of the pits amounted to little more than smoothing dirt over the tops of the pits without cleaning them out, which failed to lower contamination levels. The trial is expected to end in late 2007 or early 2008.

Read more about Chevron Texaco in Ecuador on http://www.texacotoxico.org/eng