Chevron in Ecuador

The archive of the Clean Up Ecuador campaign website

March 2006 Summary of Evidence from Judicial Inspections

Latest Scientific Results Show Overwhelming Contamination in Former Texaco Concessions

Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109

Oil Giant Faces Another Major Setback In Landmark Environmental Trail In Ecuador

Amazon Watch

  1. Charts showing water samples taken by plaintiffs and Chevron.
  2. Charts showing soil samples taken by plaintiffs and Chevron.
  3. Chart showing sample results by site.
  4. Chart showing sample results at "remediated" sites.
  5. Chart showing sample results in violation of Ecuadorian hydrocarbon law.

San Francisco, CA - Scientific analyses of hundreds of water and oil samples taken from former Texaco concessions in the Ecuadorian Amazon now paint a detailed picture of the devastating toxic contamination left by the oil giant.

The results are pivotal to the landmark class-action lawsuit brought in Ecuador by 30,000 rainforest dwellers against Chevron (formerly ChevronTexaco). The corporation's defense has rested in large part on two contradictory claims: that there was no substantial contamination, and that Texaco had already remediated oil-related pollution.

The latest scientific results challenge that defense with the full force of forensic fact.

As of December 2005, the scientific analyses reveal that:

  • All 22 of the sampled sites are contaminated;
  • 98 percent of water samples submitted by Chevron itself break Ecuadorian law;
  • 79 percent of the total of 166 soil samples submitted by the plaintiffs, break Ecuadorian law;
  • Levels of toxins in dozens of samples exceed Ecuador's relatively lax environmental standards by multiples of hundreds, and in some cases thousands.

The sampling began in August 2004 as part of the historic trial's "judicial inspection" phase. During this phase, Chevron and the plaintiffs have each been collecting samples from field sites where Texaco once drilled for oil and delivering them to independent laboratories for analysis.

Significantly, even Chevron's samples have revealed consistently illegal and dangerous levels of toxins. These results come despite Chevron's use of sampling techniques that independent experts have concluded are deliberately skewed to give lower readings.

Analysis of one Chevron sample revealed 68,430 parts per million (ppm) of carcinogenic Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH). That is 6,842 percent higher than the 1,000ppm permitted by Ecuadorian law. It also exceeds the EPA benchmark of 300ppm by a staggering 22,809 percent. The plaintiffs' samples have given even higher readings, with three samples found to have TPHs present at 900,000ppm – in other words, samples composed 90 percent of TPHs - and a fourth with 265,338ppm.

Crucially, all of the 22 sites sampled had supposedly been "remediated" by Texaco in the 1990s under a $40 million settlement with the Ecuadorian government. That contract is now being investigated by Ecuadorian authorities as possibly fraudulent. The "remediation" cost less than one percent of the $6 billion which one independent expert told the court would be the likely minimum cost for a genuine clean-up.

Instead of carefully containing and treating the pollution, Texaco is alleged to have merely bulldozed earth and debris over hundreds of pits containing toxic "formation waters" produced during the oil drilling process. Texaco executives would have known full well that this would allow the contamination to seep into the fragile rainforest ecosystem's water table, which supplies thousands of local people with their drinking, cooking and bathing water. The scientific results submitted to the court by both sides so far appear to confirm the gross inadequacy of Texaco's supposed "remediation".

The plaintiffs assert that from 1970 to 1992, Texaco deliberately dumped 18.5 billion gallons of formation waters into the Ecuadorian Amazon. Texaco did this to save $3 a barrel by avoiding the standard industry practice of the time of re-injecting formation waters, a practice developed decades earlier precisely to prevent environmental and public health disasters. Rates of cancer, miscarriages and birth defects have all risen among local communities subsequently.