Myth 4: Oil contamination in water is the biggest health threat facing the Oriente
There is no question that the people of the Oriente region of Ecuador face a series of challenges regarding health in their communities. However, they are being deceived by the trial lawyers and activists who have brought this lawsuit.
The major health concerns in the Oriente region are not the result of oil operations, but are related to a lack of water treatment infrastructure, a lack of sufficient sanitation infrastructure and inadequate access to medical care. (Read about Texaco Petroleum’s past operations and questions of health.)
Drinking water samples taken during court-ordered inspections of sites remediated by Texaco Petroleum found high levels of bacterial contamination from human or animal waste in 90 percent of the samples, indicating widespread microbial contamination of the water sources.
While the samples contained a high level of microbial contamination, results showed little evidence of contamination from oil. Court-ordered inspections found that 98 percent of surface water and 99 percent of drinking water samples meet international drinking water standards for petroleum hydrocarbons. Those few samples indicating petroleum-related impacts were from areas where Petroecuador’s poor operations had resulted in contamination.
In addition, sworn declarations filed in April 2013 by environmental consultants from Boulder, Colo.-based Stratus Consulting testify that the plaintiffs’ lawyers not only contrived to falsify environmental damages claims, but that “Stratus is not aware of any scientific evidence that people in the former concession area are drinking water contaminated with petroleum” and that “at no time while working on the Ecuador Project did I see any data supporting a finding of groundwater contamination from TexPet operations…”
The Government of Ecuador has not fulfilled its obligation to remediate the environmental impacts that it has caused, much less to modernize or even maintain its facilities to mitigate further impact. Nor has the government provided any sewage treatment in the region with raw sewage being discharged directly into streams and rivers used for bathing and drinking water by the local communities. As a result, many rural residents do not have access to potable water.