Indigenous Peruvians win Amazon pollution payout from U.S. oil giant – ‘My son and daughter died vomiting blood’Posted by Jim at Saturday, March 07, 2015
By Dan Collyns
5 March 2015
Lima (The Guardian) – Members of the indigenous Achuar tribe from the Peruvian Amazon have won an undisclosed sum from Occidental Petroleum in an out-of-court settlement after a long-running legal battle in the US courts.
They sued the company in 2007, alleging it knowingly caused pollution which caused premature deaths, birth defects, and damaged their habitat.
It is the first time a company from the United States has been sued in a US court for pollution it caused in another country, Marco Simons, the legal director of EarthRights International, which represented the Achuar people in the lawsuit, said. It set a “precedent” which he said will be “significant for future cases and has already been cited by other courts in the United States”.
The case was initially dismissed in 2008 when the federal district court agreed with Occidental Petroleum that the case should be heard in Peru rather than Los Angeles, the plaintiffs successfully appealed to overturn this decision, and the US supreme court refused to hear the company’s arguments in 2013.
The funds provided by the company through a trust will be used for health, education and nutrition projects run by a collective of five Achuar communities (Antioquía, José Olaya, Nueva Jerusalén, Pampa Hermosa, and Saukí) that filed the lawsuit. All come from the Corrientes river basin in Peru’s northern Amazon.
One of the plaintiffs, Adolfina Sandi alleges her 11-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter died after drinking water from the contaminated river.
“We didn’t know the impact of the pollution and the company never told us. My son and daughter died vomiting blood. They never confirmed to us why they had died,” she said. Speaking her native Achuar language, Sandi said she was grateful for the settlement even though her children would not benefit from the projects.
LA-based Occidental Petroleum drilled for oil in Peru’s block 1-AB – one of the country’s biggest oil concessions – between 1971 and 2000, during which time it spewed out around 9bn gallons of untreated “produced waters” containing heavy metals such as cadmium, lead, and arsenic into the rivers and streams without regard for international standards, according to a report by the NGO Amazon Watch. [more]