Firm reveals extent of environmental damage in Ecuador by Chevron

Louis Berger Group, a New Jersey based environmental engineering firm, released a report revealing that the oil contamination left by Texaco, now Chevron, in the Ecuador forest five decades ago continues to harm the environment and jeopardise public health.

In 1964, United States based Texaco Petroleum Company began exploring oil in northeast Ecuador. This eventually led to the discovery of the Lago Agrio Oil Field near the city of Nueva Loja in the province of Sucumbios, Ecuador.

Beginning 1990s, several court cases were filed in the US, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, and Canada, as well as the International Court of Justice against Chevron. Central to these cases are claims that the US oil company deliberately dumped more than 18 billion of toxic water that spilled in bodies of water and discarded hazardous waste in hundreds of open pits within the Amazon forest.

A study conducted by Louis Berger Group reaffirms these claims while also arguing that the environmental backlash caused by the oil contamination remains persistent. Accordingly, the lethal toxins from oil pits have migrated to water streams used by people for bathing, washing clothes, and cooking. Moreover, the cleanups supposedly made by Chevron were ineffective or inexistent as pits remained contaminated. There are even more pits that exist than previously thought.

The report also highlighted the fact that the oil contamination and environmental impacts are not limited to the immediate vicinity around the oil fields and facilities operated by Chevron. Both have migrated to groundwater and surface water resources used by residents and in livestock and agriculture activities.

In addition, the cleanups made by Chevron through the Remedial Action Plan in 1990s were insubstantial because the impacts of the contamination continue to exist. There are immediate physical evidences to support these claims. Even a simple sampling of surface soil and water could reveal high levels of oil and chemical byproducts.

The report concluded that the extent of contamination and impacts revealed in the past merely scratch the surface. The environmental damage is far worse than expected and the implications to human health are more daunting.

Currently, Ecuador is still seeking for environmental damages allegedly caused by Chevron, particularly by trying to enforce the ruling of its Supreme Court in other countries and the international community. A U.S. federal court ruling has blocked Ecuador from using American courts to collect the $9 billion judgment awarded by the Ecuador Supreme Court. Photo credit: Louis Berger Group/Adapted