Over 30,000 Ecuadorians Drink From Contaminated Water Sources
Amazon Defense Coalition
20 November 2008 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
Washington, DC - U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, who chairs the House Human Rights Caucus, has released a letter written to President-Elect Barack Obama that describes a "terrible humanitarian and environmental crisis" in Ecuador's Amazon where Texaco operated a large oil concession from 1964 to 1990.
Medical studies estimate that more than 400 people have died from cancer and that Chevron, which bought Texaco in 2001, faces a potential liability of up to $16.3 billion for what experts consider the worst oil-related contamination on earth.
McGovern, who along with a team of congressional staff recently spent two days touring the area, requested in his letter that the President-elect task relevant federal agencies to provide technical assistance and other resources to bolster efforts by the government of Ecuador to clean up the contamination and to help the thousands of people living in the area, which include the members of five indigenous groups.
"It is past time for those responsible for this contamination to step up to the plate and be held accountable," wrote McGovern. "I...saw the infrastructure Texaco/Chevron created that allowed for the wholesale dumping of formation water and other highly toxic materials directly into the Amazon and its waters."
The full letter may be downloaded here.
The lawsuit, which was initially filed in 1993 in the U.S. but shifted to Ecuador at Chevron's request, is expected to conclude in 2009. Chevron's lawyers have said publicly they expect a significant "adverse judgment" and are planning for the appeals process.
The lawsuit asserts that Texaco deliberately dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic "formation waters" into Amazon waterways, abandoned more than 900 waste pits, and refused to clean contaminated soils and groundwater. The indigenous groups say their populations have declined and that they have lost most of their ancestral lands to the pollution.
Rep. McGovern underscored that he was not requesting that Obama or anybody else interfere with the trial, which began in 2003 in the town of Lago Agrio, Ecuador. The trial has included site visits and sampling at 94 of Texaco's former production sites.
"The drinking water for thousands of poor people is horribly unfit - even deadly," Rep. McGovern said in the letter. "Children are drinking and bathing in water that reeks of oil. In one village, I couldn't come across a family that hadn't been touched by cancer. Mothers brought their children to show me the terrible rashes and sores that covered their bodies."
About the Amazon Defense Coalition:
The Amazon Defense Coalition represents dozens of rainforest communities and five indigenous groups that inhabit Ecuador's Northern Amazon region. The mission of the Coalition is to protect the environment and secure social justice through grass roots organizing, political advocacy, and litigation.