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From August of 2008 to June of 2009, I lived in a city in the middle of the Ecuadorian Andes Mountain, called Ambato. After spending nine months learning, exploring, laughing, and living with the wonderfully compassionate and generous people of Ecuador, it makes sense how angered I was to read about an oil spill in the Ecuadorian Amazon region by a U.S. oil company known as Texaco, which merged into the Chevron Corporation in 2001. However, unlike the recent BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast, the environmental and health damages in Ecuador were not the result of an accident, but of a deliberate plan to cut costs.

Referred to as the “Amazonian Chernobyl”, the spill remains the world’s worst oil-related catastrophe. According to an article by the Amazon Defense Coalition, Mitch Anderson states that “Chevron dumped more than 18.5 billion gallons of toxic waste — about 4 million gallons per day for more than two decades — and the world paid almost no attention.” In fact, the 345 million gallons of crude oil that were illegally dumped in the region amount to far more than the recent BP spill, but the public hears much less about it because it happened far away and affected mostly indigenous populations. The dumping, which occurred from 1964 to 1990 and included carcinogenic chemicals, has greatly harmed five indigenous groups and caused a sixth to disappear completely, and affects one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world.

The damages to the health of locals has been extensive. Below is a video made by those people who have suffered, addressed to the CEO of Chevron, Mr. John Wattson:

What is the combined ecological and health cost to this disaster? An assessment done by Dr. Cabrera estimated more than $9 billion as compensation for deaths from cancer, $3.2 billion for groundwater remediation and $428 million to improve potable water systems, $2.7 billion for pit remediation, $1.7 billion for damage to oil infrastructure sites, and $1 billion in soil remediation, totaling approximately $27 billion. However, Ecuadorian attorney Pablo Fajarado stated that “the damages estimate in Ecuador is glaringly low in light of the latest assessments of BP’s liability by Wall Street analysts.” Given the extensive damage caused from their attempt to simply cut costs of waste disposal and increase profit, it is possible that the proposed $27 billion liability charges are not adequate compensation for what Chevron (formerly Texaco) has done.