Most people who trek through the Ecuadorian Amazon expect to see a variety of monkeys, birds and extraordinary insects, but few expect to find pools of oil where pools of water should be, or oily sludge rather than fertile soil. But after more than 30 years of extracting oil in this northern region of the Amazon, principally by Texaco, the surface and ground water is full of the thick, smelly oily sludge that remains.
The “Toxic Tour,” part of BCA Quito’s multi-day excursion to the Amazon, focuses on the impact the oil pollution has on the environment and the people living in the region. Digging into the soil with their hands and shovels, students get to see and touch the sludge from contaminated streams, leaking pools of oil, and “remediated” sites, which are actually just thick layers of soil covering oil and oil-contaminated soil.
Leading the effort to properly remediate the contamination is Pablo Fajardo, one of the principal attorneys representing the Ecuadorian people in the case of ChevronTexaco vs. the people of Ecuador. Fajardo joined the students in the field to showcase the obvious contamination and discuss the ongoing legal battle in which ChevronTexaco still admits no fault and refuses to pay for damages.
Visiting an indigenous community located in the contaminated area, students heard first-hand accounts of cancer, cancer deaths and the struggle to survive in a land in which all of the groundwater and surface water is contaminated with hydrocarbons.