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Arica's arsenic-laden toxic water declared 'environmental catastrophe'
by Belinda Torres-Leclercq & Angus McNeice
The Santiago Times Translate This Article
22 March 2014
On 22 March 2014 The Santiago Times reported:
Thirty years ago 20,000 tonnes of toxic smelting waste arrived by ship to the Chilean port of Arica and were transported to the edge of the northern city where they were left uncovered and exposed to the elements. Children from homes abutting the dump trampled playfully across the waste, locals carried off hunks of material to build extensions to their fragile adobe houses, and over time the wind did the rest, scattering arsenic and lead across the arid sands of Arica y Parinacota. Prior to Sweden's moratorium on exports of toxic materials to developing countries, the European nation's largest mining operator Boliden cut a deal with Chilean company Promel to recycle the waste that was swiftly abandoned. Authorities battled to filter the toxins from the region's contaminated groundwater, as cases of arsenic and lead poisoning mounted into the hundreds. To make matters worse, the region is in the heartland of Chile's extensive mining industry, and a 2013 study headed by a leading toxicologist alleges that the lakes and rivers that irrigate the Valle de Azapa and serve water to the city of Arica are privy to the unchecked dumping of arsenic, mercury, lead, nickel, boron, and cyanide.
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