Tuesday, September 22, 2009

a toxic scandal

In 1984, the Chilean government allowed processing company PROMEL to dump 21,000 tons of Swedish toxic waste near the city of Arica, in the far north of the country. Later, the government allowed shantytowns to be built almost directly on top of the waste.

LA NACIÓN (via The Santiago Times) reports that residents "were then plagued by a wide range of ailments, including arthritis, cancer and impotence. There was no explanation from the government until health authorities acknowledged the problem in 1998 and cleaned up much of the area’s waste. The government then declared the area contamination-free, although it failed to acknowledge the extent of the harm done to local residents by not disclosing results blood tests."

Now the Chilean government will relocated 1,800 families--but only homeowners will get benefits. And local residents say the government's relocation plan ignores 8,000 others who live in neighboring shantytowns.

The government estimates that the clean-up and relocation will eventually cost about US$600,000 per family. That's alot of money (the article suggests that it amounts to the largest residential relocation in Chile's history), but I wonder how much of that money is really going to the residents, and how much to the companies that are doing the environmental remediation.

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