Brazil fines Shell for toxic pesticide pollution
Sao Paulo state's environmental watchdog Cetesb said it had had found unacceptably high levels of dieldrin, a toxic substance used in the production of pesticides, in wells near the Vila Carioca fuel and chemical distribution depot in the south of the state capital operated by Shell since 1951.
The pollution on the site, which used to operate as a pesticide plant, was a "grave fault," Sao Paulo state Cetesb environmental watch dog said in a statement. It ordered the company to propose a clean-up and contention plan.
At the heart of the environmental dispute is Shell's pesticide plant, which first operated in Vila Carioca and later in Paulinia, 75 miles (120 kms) northwest of Sao Paulo.
The Sao Paulo state's Public Ministry has accused Shell of negligence in the exposure of at least 156 people to toxic pesticides in Paulinia and said there were risks to the population of Vila Carioca, where pesticides were made between 1950 and 1978.
Shell stopped the local production of pesticides Aldrin, Dieldrin and Endrin in 1990 when Brazil banned them. They are among the 12 persistent organic pollutants, dubbed the "dirty dozen," that remain in the environment for over 100 years without breaking down and accumulate in the food chain.
The company has long made a commitment to decontaminate the sites and has provided drinking water, social counseling and medical exams for residents at Paulinia.
But it has brushed aside accusations it contaminated residents in the areas and insists their immediate removal from the affected areas is unnecessary.
The residents have, however, said they plan to demand compensation for health and other damages in what could potentially become a multimillion-dollar lawsuit.