Chevron Legacy: Toxic Waste in Ecuador

Updated 10.29.10

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18 billion gallons.

A pipe to drain crude contamination from open toxic pools into waterways near Lago Agrio, Ecuador. The toxic pools in the Ecuadorean Amazon rainforest were abandoned by Texaco (now Chevron) after oil drilling operations ended in 1990 and were never remediated. Photo by Caroline Bennett

In a previous post, I wrote about this environmental disaster and ChevronToxico’s campaign for justice in Ecuador .

To summarize, at each of their 356 oil wells drilled throughout the Amazon rainforest region of Ecuador during its operations over nearly three decades, Chevron (then, as Texaco–or, as ChevronToxico and others like to call it, ‘Toxico’) carved out several pits to hold waste products from the drilling process. Meant to be temporary, more than 900 pits were simply abandoned. Filled with a sludge of crude and toxic chemicals that continue to leach into soil as well as groundwater relied upon by thousands of local residents for drinking and bathing.

A recent study of the number of excess cancer deaths associated with living in or near the oil fields in the Oriente estimates that nearly 10,000 people could succumb to oil-related cancer by 2080, even if Chevron begins cleaning up its contamination in 2011 and finishes by 2020. ~ Chevron in cquador Blog

Message from Ecuador to Chevron CEO John Watson:

Check out this video from Amazon Watch:

Your Voice Counts.

Update: 10.19.10: Chevron in Ecuador Blog

Chevron’s New PR Blitz Overshadowed by Hoax & Hijinks. ~via Han Shan, Coordinator of Amazon Watch’s Clean Up Ecuador Campaign

Allow me to let the lead sentence in today’s Associated Press article set the stage:

Activists seeking to condemn Chevron Corp.’s environmental record have turned to guerrilla-style tactics, grabbing attention with an online hoax that pre-empted a corporate advertising campaign.

Along with our allies at Rainforest Action Network, we worked with corporate crime-fighting pranksters The Yes Men to make sure that this week’s launch of Chevron’s new ‘We Agree‘ ad campaign would NOT go unchallenged.

As The Yes Men explain in a press release that went out early Tuesday:

The activists’ pre-emptive campaign began early Monday with a press release from a spoof Chevron domain, which launched the fake “We Agree” site hours before the real Chevron could launch its own, real campaign. The fake “We Agree” site featured four “improved” advertisements…”

The parody ads and ad copy on the site highlight Chevron’s environmental and social abuses, and feature photos of Chevron’s contamination in Ecuador, and victims who are part of the ongoing, valiant effort to hold Chevron accountable.

As Ecuadorian indigenous leader Emergildo Criollo said in response to Chevron’s new ad blitz:

“Instead of spending millions of dollars on advertising to improve its image, Chevron should clean up the toxic waste pits that they abandoned, and pay to care for people with cancer that the contamination has caused.”

We Agree.

And our hijinks around this “textbook example of greenwashing,” as I told the AP, ARE turning the spotlight back to the very concerns that Chevron’s deceptive advertising is designed to co-opt and conceal. Now you, dear reader, can help keep Chevron in the hot seat and it will only take a few seconds…

After reporting on our efforts, The Washington Post is conducting a poll, asking: What do you think of Chevron’s new ‘We Agree’ ad campaign?

VOTE NOW!

Did you vote?

Promise?

Okay, then enjoy reading more on this latest effort to use just the right amount of subterfuge to help Chevron with a little much-needed “truth in advertising.”

Read the rest of the story at ChevronInEquador.com.

Update: 10.12.10. Change Chevron Blog.

via Mike G.: It seems, at times, as if corporate executives operate with near-impunity, rarely being held accountable for polluting the planet in their quest for profits. But today, at least one exec is behind bars for contributing to the deaths of several people who were inundated by millions of gallons of toxic sludge that his company had failed to dispose of properly.

No, I’m not talking about Chevron CEO John Watson, though I certainly could (and probably should) be. Watson is still at large, enjoying his impunity while 30,000 Ecuadoreans continue to suffer the effects of the 18 billion gallons of toxic oil waste his company refuses to clean up in the rainforests of Ecuador.

I’m actually talking about Zoltan Bakonyi, the managing director of MAL Rt., the Hungarian Aluminum Production and Trade Company, which was responsible for a flood of toxic sludge that killed eight people in Hungary last week.

The similarities between what happened in Hungary and the ongoing catastrophe in Ecuador are striking. Both are entirely man-made disasters that should never have happened, both are the result of corporate negligence, and both point out how environmentally unsustainable industries externalize the costs of their dirty businesses onto those communities unfortunate enough to be adjacent to their polluting operations.

There are plenty of differences between the two cases, as well. For one thing, the toxic sludge from MAL Rt.’s aluminum plant only claimed eight lives and seems to be mostly contained at this point, whereas Chevron’s toxic oil waste has so far led to some 1,400 deaths, and could lead to 10,000 more by 2080 even if Chevron cleans up its mess immediately — which of course the company still refuses to do altogether.

The biggest difference is, of course, the fact that MAL Rt. managing director Zoltan Bakonyi has been detained by Hungarian authorities and is being held responsible, while John Watson is still free, still polluting, and still not taking responsibility for the damage his company’s pollution has caused.

The Change Chevron team leaves their cleaning supplies at Chevron CEO John Watson's house. Photo: Rainforest Action Network

As part of 350.org’s 10/10/10 Global Work Party, we got to work cleaning up Chevron stations in an attempt to urge the company to do the same in Ecuador. At the end of the day, we dropped off our cleaning supplies at Watson’s home in Lafayette, CA (as you can see in the photo above) in the hopes that he might put them to use some time soon. If you want to help, you can go to Chevron’s Facebook page and tell Watson and Chevron to get to work cleaning up Ecuador right now.

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