Contamination in the Nanay: The National Water Authority Confirms High Levels of Mercury and Lead

Recent government testing reveal levels of contamination in the Nanay river basin that exceed permitted levels, and a local advocacy group delivered a written statement to react.

In a press conference last week, Peru’s National Water Authority (ANA) released the results of surface water samples taken from the Nanay river basin in December 2012.

On Friday, the Iquitos Water Defense Committee convened at the Ombudsman’s Office (Defensoria del Pueblo) to deliver a written statement in response to ANA’s findings and to urge a public forum to discuss the findings. (See statement below in English and original Spanish)

Levels of mercury and lead exceeded Peru’s Environmental Quality Standards for the category of Aquatic Environmental Conservation for Jungle Rivers. Water samples were collected from the catchment zone for Sedaloreto, the municipal water company responsible for the water supply of Iquitos, the largest city in the Peruvian Amazon with a population of just over half a million. Levels of mercury in the water samples tested at 0,00071 mg/l, lead at 0,0089 mg/l.

Jose Manuyama, president of the Iquitos Water Defense Committee, believes that seismic testing has contributed to the high levels of contamination; in 2011 and 2012, oil company ConocoPhillips carried out seismic testing in oil concessions 123 and 129, both located near the headwaters of the Nanay river.

Members of the Iquitos Water Defense committee urged the Ombudsman’s Office to organize a public forum to offer the citizenry of Iquitos the opportunity to discuss the contamination with relevant state institutions. We are waiting to see if the Ombudsman’s Office moves ahead with plans for such a forum.

The Iquitos Water Committee has drafted a petition to prevent further contamination of the Nanay, as oil companies begin plans for drilling. Please sign the petition here, and read the official statement by the water committee in response to the discovery of contamination in the Nanay river below.

Iquitos Water Defense Committee
Pronouncement
Mercury and Lead in the Waters of the Nanay river

To the authorities and the general citizenry,

We understand that the pursuit for a full and healthy life is a right and a civic duty, and that this pursuit necessitates the freedom to exercise this right. It’s necessary to fortify the actions that help us achieve this freedom and to denounce those which obstruct it.

To this end, we, the organizations that form the citizens collective known as the Iquitos Water Defense Committee have this to say:

-In a press conference on the 11th of November, 2013, the National Water Authority (ANA) publicly released the results of an evaluation of surface water conducted almost a year ago, in December of 2012. The results of various samples taken at points along the Nanay river and its tributaries revealed indices of mercury and lead that surpassed permitted levels.
-Possible sources of contamination, such as dredge mining barges that, according to the law, are prohibited in Amazon rivers, have been identified, but the competent authorities have neglected to take prompt action.

-These actions or lack thereof reflect how little commitment and responsibility there is on the part of the state to take adequate and definite measures to protect the health and wellbeing of the population.

Accordingly, we demand:

1) The immediate action of the local authorities, both regional and national, to take the corresponding public measures with the goal of evaluating the results released by ANA, and to take recuperative y preventative measures to safeguard the population.

2) That new studies are carried out promptly to evaluate the present condition of the water quality-studies that will confirm or deny the results obtained in the participatory monitoring of December 2012, which showed the existence of heavy metals like mercury and lead.

3) The investigation of possible sources of contamination and the identification of those responsible, taking into account the fact that the Nanay River has been impacted by the unethical alluvial mining, deforestation because of logging, monoculture, and seismic testing carried out by an oil company during the year 2011 and 2012 that included the detonation of more that 15 thousand points of explosion in the headwaters and middle part of the river basin.

4) The definitive exclusion of the Nanay river basin, due to its vulnerability and environmental and ecological importance, from ALL activity that would alter the ecological equilibrium of the river basin.

5) The definitive cancellation of Canadian company Gran Tierra Energy’s oil drilling project in the lots 123 and 129, now in suspension due to the protest of the citizens of the area, that, if carried out, will multiply the existing risk for the lives of more than a half a million people that inhabit and benefit from the resources of the river basin.

6) The urgent, complete, and sustainable attention to the needs of the communities and people of the river basin, in order to guarantee a peaceful coexistence and the justice necessary for our survival.

Finally, we call upon the citizenry to exercise its right to life, to a clean and ecologically balanced environment- conditions for a life of dignity and for real human progress.

For Water, For Life
Defending Our Water is Defending Ourselves
Without the Nanay, There’s No Water Supply
Iquitos, November 12, 2013

Below is the original statement in Spanish: 

COMITÉ DE DEFENSA DEL AGUA
PRONUNCIAMIENTO
MERCURIO Y PLOMO EN LAS AGUAS DEL RÍO NANAY

A las autoridades y ciudadanía en general

Entendemos que la búsqueda de una vida plena es un derecho y un deber ciudadano, y que lograrlo implica la participación libre, por lo que es necesario fortalecer todo acto que contribuya al alcance de este fin, y denunciar todo aquello que lo obstaculice y/o impida.

En este sentido, como colectivo ciudadano,las organizaciones que conforman el Comité de Defensa del Agua manifestamos lo siguiente:

• Habiéndose hecho público en conferencia de prensa del día 11 de noviembre de 2013,después de casi 1 año, los resultados de la evaluación de agua superficial,realizada por la Autoridad Nacional del Agua (ANA)en diciembre 2012, que arrojan índices de mercurio y plomo por encima de los estándares permitidos en varios puntos muestreados en el río Nanay y afluentes.

• Queencontrándose posibles fuentes de contaminación, como una embarcación con una draga a bordo, no reportada a las autoridades competentes para una rápida acción, teniendo en cuenta que por ley las dragas están prohibidas en los ríos amazónicos.

Acciones que reflejan el poco compromiso y responsabilidad por parte del estado para tomar medidas oportunas y precisas que garanticen la protección de la salud y la vidade la población.
Por lo que exigimos:

1. La inmediata acción de las autoridades locales, regionales y nacionales, e instancias de gestión públicas correspondientes, con el fin de evaluar los resultados emitidos por la ANA y tomar todas las medidas recuperativas y/o preventivas, en salvaguarda de la población que se provee del agua de la Cuenca del Nanay.

2. Que se realicen nuevos estudios que nos permitan conocer en tiempo record, la situación y/o condición actual de la calidad de agua, que confirmen o denieguen los resultados obtenidos en el monitoreo participativo de diciembre 2012, que arrojan la existencia de metales pesados como mercurio y plomo.

3. La investigación de las fuentes posibles de contaminación y la identificación de los responsables, teniendo en cuenta que el río Nanay ha sido impactado por la inescrupulosa minería aluvial, deforestación por extracción maderera, monocultivos, y la actividad de prospección sísmica realizada por una empresa petrolera durante el 2011 y 2012 que implicó la detonación de más de 15 mil puntos de explosivos en la cabecera y parte media de la Cuenca.

4. La exclusión definitiva dela Cuenca del Nanay, por su vulnerabilidad e importancia ambiental y ecológica, de TODA actividad que altere el equilibrio ecológico de la Cuenca.

5. La cancelación definitiva del proyecto petrolero de la empresa canadiense Gran Tierra Energy, en los lotes 123 y 129, ahora en suspenso por la lucha ciudadana, que de llevarse a cabo multiplicaría el riesgo existente sobre la vida de más de medio millón de personas que habita y/o se beneficia de los servicios de la Cuenca.

6. La atención urgente, integral y sostenible de las necesidades de las comunidades y pueblos de la Cuenca, para garantizar una convivencia pacífica y equitativa necesaria para nuestra sobrevivencia.

Finalmente, invocamos a la ciudadanía a ejercer plenamente el derecho a la vida, a un ambiente sano y equilibrado, condiciones para una vida digna y para el verdadero PROGRESO HUMANO.

“POR EL AGUA, POR LA VIDA”
“LA DEFENSA DEL AGUA ES NUESTRA DEFENSA”
“SIN NANAY, AGUA NO HAY”
Iquitos 12 de noviembre de 2013

Deborah Rivett, Sunday, 17 November 2013

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