Well Site Tested At Ten Times Above Legal Limit, But Chevron Says It is Clean
Amazon Defense Coalition
2 November 2010 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
Washington, DC – A video making its way around the internet presents definitive proof that Chevron is engaging in fraud in Ecuador by leaving behind toxic waste pits that it claims to have remediated, say representatives of the indigenous communities suing the oil giant for billions of dollars in clean-up costs.
The video, produced by the environmental group Amazon Watch and posted here presents visual evidence of the intentional dumping of billions of gallons of oil and toxic formation water by Chevron in Ecuador's Amazon region. Chevron operated a large oil concession there from 1964 to 1990.
The lawsuit, with the top end of damages estimated at $113 billion, accuses Chevron of dumping billions of gallons of toxic "water of formation" into the environment and of abandoning hundreds of waste pits filled with oil sludge that still leech toxins into the soils and waters of the rainforest.
"Chevron has told U.S. federal judges that it is not responsible for the contamination seen in the video even though Chevron built, operated and closed the oil site that is obviously causing harm to the environment," said Karen Hinton, spokesperson for the Ecuadorians.
The waste pit in the video is at Aguarico 4, one of 356 well sites built by Texaco when it operated in Ecuador from 1964 to 1992. Chevron bought Texaco in 2001 and has assumed the Ecuador liability.
The waste pit shown is one of hundreds dotting the jungle in an area roughly the size of Rhode Island, none of which have been adequately remediated by the oil giant, according to lawyers for the communities. Chevron installed gooseneck pipes to drain toxic waste from most of the pits into streams that thousands of indigenous inhabitants relied on for their drinking water.
Chevron has claimed in various courts that it was released from all environmental claims based on a purported remediation, but the video makes it clear that very little of the damage left by the company was actually cleaned up, said Hinton.
"The remediation was obviously part of Chevron's fraud in Ecuador," said Hinton.
"Chevron also claims the contamination shown in the video is not dangerous to people, animals or the environment," she added. "On 60 Minutes, a Chevron lawyer made the preposterous claim that the oil contamination in the pits posed no more danger to people than the makeup on her face. Chevron tries to distinguish itself from BP, but its lawyers are lying to federal judges, the news media and to the American people about the danger the company created."
Chevron opened Aguarico 4 in 1974 and closed it in 1984, when the well ceased being commercially viable. Soil tests taken recently during the Ecuadorian trial revealed contamination levels at the site of 10,174 parts per million of total petroleum hydrocarbons, or ten times above Ecuador's maximum limit and roughly 100 times higher than the norm in most U.S. states.
Despite the high levels of hydrocarbons found at the former Chevron sites and confirmed by testing in independent laboratories, Chevron has insisted in various U.S. courts where it has sought discovery that it caused no contamination in Ecuador.
Several peer-reviewed health evaluations have found elevated rates of cancer in the area where Chevron operated, and one American expert recently concluded that up to 10,000 people face a significant risk of contracting cancer in the coming decades.
Chevron's Ecuador problem has drawn criticism in many quarters.
A prominent Ecuador Bishop, Gonzalez Lopez Maranon, blasted the oil giant for failing to accept responsibility for the "pollution and death" Texaco caused in the country. The full text of his letter in English and Spanish, which was sent to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, can be found here.
Rep. James McGovern, the only member of Congress to have visited the disaster area in Ecuador, previously had written a letter to President Obama, saying Chevron's pollution in the Amazon had created "a terrible humanitarian and environmental crisis."