Members of the indigenous Achuar communities in the Amazon basin in the Peru-Ecuador border region have notified US Oil Company Occidental Petroleum (Oxy) that they will bring a lawsuit against the company in the
Achuar children in the area are suffering from high blood levels of cadmium and lead, both of which are thought to create grave developmental problems. Recent environmental reports by EarthRights International (ERI), Amazon Watch, and Peruvian legal non-profit Racimos de Ungurahui support previous conclusions reached by the Peruvian government in linking Oxy to the toxins. The report is “based on information gathered by a team of experts in May 2006 – including a doctor, nurse, lawyers, soil scientist, agronomist, environmental engineer, and chemist.” About 8,600 people in five separate communities are blaming Oxy for high blood toxin levels.
The report says that Oxy used cost-cutting, out of date practices to boost profits. These included the use of “earthen pits to store drilling fluids, crude oil and crude byproducts.” The report says that the toxic chemicals overflowed and leached through their soil containers and into the surrounding ground and water.
The company is also accused of dumping a daily average of 850,000 barrels of toxic oil byproducts into rivers and streams on Achuar land, causing repeated oil spills and dumping a total of 9 billion barrels of untreated toxic and carcinogenic processing water into rainforest land.
Oxy has been operating in the region since 1971. Production started in 1975 in the area known to Oxy as “Block 1AB.” This became
A spokesperson for the company says that Oxy stopped operating in the area since late 1999 and is unaware of health damages. Oxy sold its holdings to Argentine Pluspetrol in 2000 but still owns drilling rights to 6.3 million acres in
"We have told Oxy this week that they must talk with us in good faith about how they are going to clean up the toxic waste they left in our rainforest," said Achuar spiritual elder Tomas Maynas Carijano to IPS News. "If Oxy doesn’t respond satisfactorily and soon, I, along with other Achuar, am prepared to sue them for the damages they have caused us."
The Federation of Native Communities of the
If precedents are indicative, Achuar communities may have a good chance of making Oxy act on repairable damages. In 2005, EarthRights International sued the Unocal Company for human rights abuses in