At least a hundred students were attended on Tuesday, 23, for poisoning supposedly related to environmental contamination in Quintero, Chile, a coastal city located in an industrial belt where toxic emissions are recurrent and which is known as the “Chilean Chernobyl.”
“Yesterday, all of us in Quintero noticed the heavy air. The fire crews started monitoring the center, and every time they approached the industrial cordon, the smell was stronger,” said the mayor of Quintero, Francisco Jeldes.
The mayor of the city, located in the central region of Valparaiso, 110 kilometers northwest of the capital, explained that they were forced to suspend classes and that the symptoms presented by the students were mainly headaches and vomiting.
“More than a month ago, we announced that we were going to enter a complex moment, with little air ventilation, and those episodes of bad contamination could be recurrent,” lamented Jeldes.
The Health Ministerial Regional Secretariat of Valparaiso (Seremi) informed, in turn, that the contamination episode started around 11 pm (local time) yesterday and declared an environmental alert for non-metallic hydrocarbons suspended in the air.
The alert, which affects the municipalities of Concón, Quintero, and Puchuncaví, obliges polluting industries to reduce their environmental emissions and increases the authorities’ capacity to control them.
The bay of Quintero-Puchuncaví, known as the “Chilean Chernobyl”, is home to a dozen thermoelectric, oil, and chemical plants that have left deep trails of contamination and where the population suffers recurrent episodes of intoxication.
The industrial belt is one of the five “sacrifice zones” in Chile, which were created in the 1960s to boost the country’s economic development at the permanent detriment of the environment and the population’s health.
“We don’t want any more sacrifice zones.”
“Today, hundreds of thousands of people live in our country exposed to the serious environmental deterioration that we have caused or allowed, and as a Chilean, I am ashamed,” said Chilean President Gabriel Boric in June last year.
State-owned Codelco, the world’s largest copper company, received the go-ahead last week to close one of its copper smelters in the nearby town of Ventanas, blast furnaces operating for nearly six decades and were responsible for previous contamination episodes.
The closure of the smelter, approved in March by the Chilean Parliament, was one of Boric’s big promises.
“The closure of the Codelco smelter does not guarantee that the contamination episodes will not continue to occur,” warned the mayor of Quintero.
With information from Jovem Pan
News Chile, English news Chile, Chilean environment