A U.S.-owned smelter has contaminated the air, soil and water of the town ofLa Oroya,Peru, something that deserves oversight and corrective measures from Congress, according to a Peruvian archbishop in testimony to the House Subcommittee onAfrica, Global Health and Human Rights, July 19.
Congress “can play a vital and hope-giving role, in solidarity with the people of Peru, offering compliance with environmental standards and oversight so that human beings may live with dignity and recover a healthy environment,” said Archbishop Pedro Ricardo Barreto, S.J., archbishop of Huancayo and president of the Department of Justice and Solidarity of the Latin American Bishops’ Conference (CELAM).
The La Oroya Metallurgical Complex has been owned by the U.S.-based Doe Run Company since 1997.
“Surely the people ofPeru, its workers and residents, must share in the benefits of the extractives industries and not be harmed by these activities,” Archbishop Barreto said. “Environmental degradation renders the population ill, poisons the air and the rivers, and despoils otherwise fertile agrarian land so it can no longer be successfully cultivated.”
In a separate testimony, Fernando Serrano, Ph.D. ofSt. LouisUniversityshared a 2006 study on public health impacts on La Oroya, which found elevated levels of lead, cadmium, arsenic and other toxic metals in residents’ bodies. La Oroya is listed as one of the top 10 most contaminated places in the world. This contamination places children at particular risk.
Archbishop Barreto’s trip was sponsored by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).