QUINTERO – In what has been called a historic ruling, the Supreme Court blamed authorities for the environmental crisis in Quintero. Last year between August and October, more than 1,000 people were hospitalized after inhaling toxic gases from nearby industrial complexes. According to the court ruling, the government has failed to protect its citizens and must take immediate steps to prevent another “Chilean Chernobyl.”
After the environmental crisis in Quintero left more than 1,000 people hospitalized with breathing problems, nausea, headaches, and dizziness, twelve separate parties, varying from the Human Rights Institute, to the affected municipalities, Senators, and citizens, demanded protective measures to prevent such contamination from happening again.
Yesterday, the Chilean Supreme Court responded and pinned responsibility directly on the government. The court said that the situation in Quintero was not unprecedented or unknown to the government.
“On the contrary, the characteristics, magnitude and severity (of the crisis, red) were known for years.” The Supreme Court added that “instead of taking the necessary steps to prevent pollution, the authority in question [the Ministry of Environment] has waited for new poisoning events to occur before taking measures.”
The Supreme Court also ordered 15 immediate measures. Among them are the following:
- Companies and authorities must inspect the materials they use more carefully.
- Companies must do more to reduce their gas emissions.
- When conditions (e.g., air and water quality) deteriorate, citizens must be evacuated, and an emergency plan must be implemented.
- Health authorities must investigate diseases in the area that are linked to the emissions.
The Chilean branch of Greenpeace celebrated the court ruling. “The environmental impunity for the Chilean Chernobyl is over. It is a clear recognition that the State has not fulfilled its obligation to guarantee the fundamental rights of the citizens in the area,” national director Matías Asun said.
What Happened In Quintero?
In August 2018, hundreds of people in Quintero and Puchuncaví were transferred to local hospitals after a toxic cloud escaped from an industrial complex. A Code Yellow Alert was issued, and investigations found dangerous concentrations of arsenic and methyl chloroform in the air and drinking water.
Specialists from the World Health Organization visited the affected area and demanded that the population be moved and that all industrial activities be suspended after additional victims with the same symptoms continued to pour into local hospitals.
All companies in the area denied responsibility and nearly one year later it remains unclear who was behind the poisoning of Quintero and Puchuncaví.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and works with international media during major events, like the social crisis, the elections and the Pope’s visit.