A Worker Describes How Chevron Ordered Him and Others to Release Toxic Water Directly into Streams Used for Drinking and Bathing
17 April 2015 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
Oakland, CA – Amazon Watch has released more secret video footage from a Chevron whistleblower today, showing an Ecuadorian villager asking for help that Chevron never provided to protect his children. In it he states that three of his daughters died from contamination near the oil site Dureno Uno, the first well that Chevron's predecessor company Texaco drilled in the Ecuadorian rainforest almost four decades ago.
The whistleblower mailed Amazon Watch dozens of DVDs shot by Chevron from 2005 to 2006 during secret "pre-inspections" in the Ecuador trial that led to a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron for massive contamination – a judgment that the oil giant has refused to pay.
José, on what have become known as The Chevron Tapes, told the interviewer hired by Chevron:
"I've had three children die. Three daughters. My little girls died. They would run around barefoot. They would be covered in crude. And then later they started dying."
"We said, 'Help us. Help us.' And they came and said, 'Yes. We'll help you. We'll come quickly.' ... So far they still haven't shown up, and it's been more than twenty years. ... They said, 'We'll take responsibility for this.' But so far, they still haven't shown up."
In another video, recorded by Amazon Watch, an Ecuadorian who worked for Texaco at Dureno Uno described how Texaco officials ordered him and other Ecuadorian workers to release toxic production water, laced with deadly chemicals, into the streams and rivers the local population used to drink, bathe and cook.
"The wastewater was dumped into a ravine, a stream, without any treatment at all. ...and at that time these were mountainous lands, pure rainforest existed, rich in flora and fauna; and this destroyed everything. And since we were just simple workers we couldn't say anything. We always had to work and to comply with the orders they gave us."
Last week, Amazon Watch released other videos of secret "pre-inspections" of well sites during the trial that show company technicians finding and then mocking the extensive oil contamination in areas of the Amazon rainforest that the oil giant had claimed in various courts had been remediated.
An apparent Chevron whistleblower sent dozens of internal company videos to Amazon Watch with a note signed "A Friend from Chevron." Most of the videos – some of which can be seen on the Amazon Watch website – show Chevron employees and consultants secretly visiting the company's former well sites in Ecuador to find "clean" spots where they could take soil and water samples at later site inspections when the presiding trial judge would be in attendance.
In the videos, Chevron employees and consultants can be heard joking about clearly visible pollution in soil samples being pulled out of the ground from waste pits that Chevron testified before both U.S. and Ecuadorian courts had been remediated in the mid-1990s. (Chevron bought Texaco in 2001 and is now liable for the company's environmental problems.)
In a March 2005 video, a Chevron employee, named Rene, taunts a company consultant, named Dave, at well site Shushufindi 21:
"... you keep finding oil in places where it shouldn't have been.... Nice job, Dave. Give you one simple task: Don't find petroleum."
After reviewing 105 technical evidentiary reports documenting extensive pollution, eight appellate judges, including Ecuador's Supreme Court, affirmed Chevron's liability in 2013 after 11 years of legal proceedings in the company's chosen forum. Damages were set at $9.5 billion, but Chevron thus far has refused to pay.
Chevron never turned over any of the secret videos to the Ecuador court conducting the trial. Nor did the company submit its pre-inspection sampling results to the court, despite the fact evidence later emerged that they confirmed high levels of cancer-causing oil contamination at many of the company's former well sites in the country.
In a related but separate arbitration matter, a tribunal recently ordered the company to turn over contamination test results from the pre-inspections, reflected in this document. It shows Chevron found illegal levels of contaminants at 76 former company well sites in Ecuador during both the pre-inspections and the official judicial inspections, confirming yet again the finding of liability against the oil major in its chosen forum of Ecuador.
On April 20, a federal appellate court in Manhattan will hear oral argument in the appeal of fraud charges brought by Chevron in a U.S. court as part of the company's retaliation strategy to evade paying the Ecuador judgment. In 2011, a federal appeals panel ruled against Chevron when the company obtained an unprecedented ruling purporting to block enforcement of the Ecuador judgment anywhere in the world. This time, Chevron is seeking to block collection of the judgment anywhere in the world via an order that the villagers argue violates domestic and international law and has no precedent.
The videos also are consistent with prior examples of Chevron's efforts to corrupt the evidence-gathering process during the Ecuador trial. In 2009, Chevron consultant Diego Borja admitted he switched out dirty samples for clean ones during the Ecuador trial. In 2011, a U.S. court forced Chevron to release its "judicial inspection playbook" that directed company technicians to only lift soil samples from clean spots usually up-gradient from the company's toxic waste pits. Clean samples and dirty samples were sent to different labs, with the plan being that only the cleanest samples would be submitted to the court.
Despite this trickery, the scientific evidence showed that the soil samples were so saturated with oil that even Chevron's own technical reports submitted to the court still demonstrated illegal levels of contamination, according to court findings.