On June 11, 2007 a press conference was held where CELCO Arauco, a multinational pulp mill corporation, assumed responsibilities for the environmental disaster that caused the devastating killing of thousands of fish in the Mataquito River.
The week before health officials declared an environmental state of emergency after thousands of fish were discovered dead in the Mataquito River along with a few sheep and a cow which were found dead in the margins of the river. Suspicion immediately fell on the nearby CELCO-owned Licanel pulp plant, the only industrial facility in the area.
CELCO representatives were quick to deny any charges and insisted that the plant cleanup workers “didn’t dump anything”, but after water PH test were taken it made authorities deduce otherwise.
The forestry giant CELCO, has promised full cooperation and compensation for residents who have been economically hurt by the disaster. Financial aid has been promised to the fishermen who may no longer fish the river because of its toxic condition. CELCO also fired three top executives at its the Licanel plant after top company management acknowledged that “anomalies” existed at the facility.
Altough CELCO has promised to cooperate with the clean-up process, the city of Lincatel are up and arms and see this as a much larger problem then just dead fish. Mayor, Hector Reyes, said he expects the city to take legal action against CELCO soon. Residents across the board agree that this disaster has damaged the image of their country, has killed the natural fauna, contaminated their crops, intoxicated their food source, and ruined the potential for the tourism industry to grow there.
This is not the first time CELCO, which last year boasted record earnings of more than US$600 million, has been blamed for serious environmental problems in Chile. In 2004 the company caused a disaster of immeasurable proportions in Region IX’s Carlos Anwandter Wetland Sanctuary, where thousands of black-necked swans died or migrated away because of pulp plant poisoning.
Save The Waves, Oceana and other environmental organizations are working hard to stop such disasters from reoccurring. Save the Waves feels like the only way to really impact a giant like CELCO is with your dollar, Will Henry, Save The Waves executive director, explains “consumers need to start demanding chlorine-free paper and that’s the only way CELCO will stop using the toxins, used for production of white paper, which end up in our rivers and oceans.”