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Shell’s Battle of the River Plate: largest ever oil spill in fresh water

The court will fine Shell 100,000 pesos (US$28,000) for each day it falls behind in the clean-up operation, the paper reported.

Protests about the biggest fresh water oil spill in history

By John Donovan

Printed below is a news report about the largest ever oil spill in fresh water. Shell was responsible for the spill, which occurred in the River Plate on January 15, 1999, polluting drinking water and local wildlife.

The Municipality of Magdalena and some groups of inhabitants of the small town with a population of around 8,000 initiated claims against Shell (owner of the oil and the ship responsible for the spill). All these years later some of the resultant litigation is still in progress. Many inhabitants of Magdalena were under age at the time of the oil spill and are still waiting for justice to decide on their claim.

The environmental impact has damaged tourism, the towns main source of income. The number of cancer cases in the local population has increased and some babies have died, as detailed in claims filed with the Courts.

For years Shell denied that its oil caused any damage or contamination. Then in May 2009, the Municipality of Magdalena accepted a $9.5 million USD indemnification offer made by Shell, settling the environmental damages claim initiated by the Municipality. Challenges to the agreement reached between Shell and the Municipality are still pending to be decided by the Courts.

Some small groups that had initiated claims against Shell, reached agreements in which Shell did not recognize the existence of any contamination in Magdalena, nor any damage on the coast.

However, the major claim initiated by a group of 500 inhabitants of Magdalena has not been settled and Shell has not made any offer to do so.

We know about this case because the lawyers acting for the relevant litigants have brought the situation to our attention. Remember that the spill occurred 13 years ago and still these people are waiting for compensation.

Shell’s Chief Executive Peter Voser enjoys a  Fat Cat package worth over £10 million per annum, yet innocent victims of the companies activities – poor people in Brazil, Nigeria, and Argentina – are treated with contempt. Instead of having an in-house legal department of over a thousand people, including several hundred lawyers busy fending off legitimate claims, Shell should sack the vast majority and spend the money instead settling these claims.

The case legal name: AGUAYO MARIA CECILIA C SHELL CAPSA y otros s/ daños y Perjuicios, Juzgado federal Civil y Comercial N 3 de Buenos Aires.

Court rules Shell must spend US$35mn on Magdalena clean-up – Argentina

Published: Friday, November 22, 2002 16:34

By Business News Americas staff reporters

An Argentine court has ruled that the Anglo-Dutch oil company Shell must pay some 35mn pesos (US$10mn) to clean up the coastal area near the city of Magdalena for damage caused by a 1999 oil spill, local daily Clarin reported.

The court found Shell was responsible for the spill, and also ruled that the oil giant had failed to clean up the coast after the January 1999accident in which Shell vessel Estrella Pampeana cllided with a German vessel, the Sea Parana, at the mouth of the Rio de la Plata, spilling 5,399 cubic meters of light crude.

Shell’s clean-up crews recovered some 1,500 cubic meters of the spilt oil and then called off the clean-up operation after 30 days.

Shell denies responsibility for the collision and the spill, but still “immediately carried out thorough cleaning activities, as recommended by national and international experts on the matter,” the company said in a statement.

Shell will call for the ruling to be overturned because “analysis made over the last three years demonstrate that the shores of Magdalena have recovered,” the statement said.

Following the initial clean up a Shell statement said the beaches were clean and the affected area was minimized, and the area would complete a gradual recovery on its own.

However, the spilt oil remains an environmental hazard according to the state environmental authority, the Secretaria de Politica Ambiental (SPA).

“The presence of hydrocarbons in the water is a health risk to humans either through direct contact or accidental ingestion during recreational activities such as swimming, fishing and other nautical activities,” SPA said in a statement.

The court will fine Shell 100,000 pesos (US$28,000) for each day it falls behind in the clean-up operation, the paper reported.



RELATED: 13 years on… Shell still won’t settle

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