Peruvian Archbishop Decries Devastating Environmental
Effects of Smelting Operation in Congressional Testimony
WASHINGTON, July 19, 2012—A U.S.-owned smelter has contaminated the air, soil and water of the town of La Oroya, Peru, something that deserves oversight and corrective measures from Congress, according to a Peruvian bishop in testimony to the House Subcommittee on Africa, 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 of Peru, 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. of St. Louis University shared 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).
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Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in nearly 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. For more information, please visit crs.org or crsespanol.org.