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News > Latin America

Empire Files Investigates Chevron's Environmental Damages in Ecuador

Published 15 August 2016

The Empire Files goes inside the oil giant's Amazon "kill zone" to check in on a cleanup that never happened.

On Aug. 8 a U.S. court handed another victory to the oil giant Chevron (which bought up rival Texaco) in its decades-long battle to avoid paying damages over one of the worst environmental disasters in history.

US Court Rules in Favor of Chevron in Ecuador Pollution Case

In the Ecuadorean Amazon, one of the most biodiverse areas of the world, the energy titan poisoned 5 million acres of pristine habitat and destroyed the health and livelihood of tens of thousands of Indigenous people.

In Part 1 of "Chevron vs. the Amazon," teleSUR's Abby Martin takes The Empire Files inside the oil giant's Amazon kill zone to see the areas deemed "remediated" by Chevron—showing how the company never really cleaned the open pits it had agreed to with the Ecuadorean government.

Accompanied by biologist Paula Carrera, Martin investigates how oil accumulates on the soil, creating a film on the surface of the water, until volatile particles evaporate and go to the atmosphere when the temperature rises.

During the process of decomposition, the crude separates from the heavy metals, which go directly into the water below, while the oily part remains on the surface.

“Certain species of native plants in the Amazon are capable of growing in such toxic conditions and are very adaptative, somehow making it in this toxic environment,” explains Carrera.

Ecuador Indigenous Groups Ravaged by Chevron Will Fight On

But still the vegetation is not growing like it should: when Martin pulls over a plant and tears it apart, the stem is saturated with crude.

Martin also visited one of the open pits supposed to have been cleaned up over two decades ago, but which are obviously still filled with crude.

Worse, Chevron built pipes that were directly dumping the waste into the natural water ecosystem of the Amazon in a bid to maintain the level of the pool, and thereby maintain the illusion that the system of evacuation of the pools were under control. However, the overflow has been contaminating the rivers and swamps below.

The contamination did not only affect the vegetation but also the many Indigenous communities living in the area, which were left with no water to drink, no food to eat and no land to cultivate.

The area records abnormal high rates of stomach cancer, birth defects, leukemia.

“We do not ask (Chevron) for charity, but to pay us back what was stolen to Ecuador,” said Carmen Perez, a nurse leading the movement for reparations.

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