U.S.-owned Doe Run smelter reportedly faces legal action for Peru contamination

The Missouri-based Doe Run Company is facing legal action in the United States for contamination at its poly-metallic smelter in the Peruvian town of La Oroya, in Junín department. According to daily La República, two American missionaries filed suit against Doe Run, citing a 2005 environmental study at the University of Missouri – St. Louis that documented lead contamination in 137 children from La Oroya.

In 2006 and 2007 the Blacksmith Institute named La Oroya one of the ten most polluted places in the world. A 1999 survey by Peru’s Health Ministry claimed the average blood lead level among local children between was triple the World Health Organization limit. According to La República, the 2005 study by the University of Missouri – St. Louis revealed blood lead levels four times higher than the WHO limit.

According to Doe Run Company’s subsidiary, Doe Run Peru, it has invested over $132 million in environmental improvement projects since they began operation in 1997. A January 2007 independent audit of their plant found they were meeting Peru’s emissions standards.

But an independent scientific study released by “Revive El Mantaro” in November 2007 still found alarming lead concentrations in and around La Oroya in comparison with international standards. Huancayo’s archbishop, Pedro Barreto, told La República that “mining companies should comply with international environmental standards, rather than national ones, which are beneath the dignity of the Peruvian people.”

Lawmaker Martha Acosta told La República “it is good the case will be in the U.S. because the environmental regulations are stricter there.” Acosta added “but the charges should also be brought to Peru so for once and all the responsibility of the company can be determined here.”

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