Article on the Rio Doce disaster

This Dow Jones article describes the joint statement by the Special Rapporteurs on toxic waste and the environment on the enormous quantities of mud unleashed by the massive dam failure on the Rio Doce in Brazil earlier in November.

It states that the U.N. special rapporteurs received their information about tests indicating high levels of toxic substances in the river after the disaster from the water department of the town of Baixo Guandu, which hired a local laboratory to analyze samples taken at three points along the Rio Doce.

One of the samples, taken in the industrial city of Governador Valadares, showed levels of arsenic, manganese and other metals at several thousand times the acceptable maximums.

Baskut Tuncak, the Special Rapporteur on toxic waste, stated:  “I find it difficult to imagine that you would see such high, elevated levels normally–in a region where people are eating fish and drinking the water–and not have major impacts on human health or the environment.”

The article also states:  “The Brazilian government said on Nov. 19 that samples collected by the Geological Service of Brazil and the National Water Agency ‘indicated that there was not an increase in the presence of heavy metals in the water and sediments of the Rio Doce.’  Nevertheless, authorities cut off water supplies for hundreds of thousands of people along the river as the mud snaked downstream. Reports of major wildlife die-offs emerged in its wake, with news teams and local residents alike publishing videos of mud-coated fish agonizing in the river’s reddened waters.”

John Knox

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