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Springfield Dominican Sisters Respond to Recent Fine Levied Against High-Polluting Plant in La Oroya, Peru

SPRINGFIELD, IL  September 10, 2007-- Peruvians have won what can be called their first important victory in the ongoing struggle  for the health and well-being of the people of La Oroya, Peru, one of the most polluted cities in the world.  On Saturday August, 25, the OSINERGMIN (Organismo Supervisor de la Inversión en Energía Minería), Peru’s equivalent to the EPA, fined  the owners of a toxic La Oroya metal smelter, Doe Run Peru,  $234,000.  The smelter is owned by eccentric U.S. businessman Ira Rennert. 

The five infractions leveled against the company are:  

  1.  Exceeding maximum permissible atmospheric limits at 2 measuring station, with respect to particulate parameters. (Serious Infraction)
  2.  Illegally  dumping in the Mantaro River without adopting provisional measures to prevent it, in three dumping sites.  (Serious Infraction)
  3.  Exceeding the permitted limit of liquids dumped at one authorized dump site. (Serious Infraction)
  4. Emitting Sulfur Dioxide without authorization or measurement. (Serious Infraction)
  5. Inadequately transporting metallic waste products.  (Minor Infraction)

The Dominican Sisters of Springfield, IL and many other organizations and scientists agree that the Doe Run plant is exposing the people who live and work in that area to dangerously high levels of lead and other toxins.

“This fine  is a hopeful  step toward ending the environmental apartheid that this U.S. company has been able to maintain in Peru,” Sister Beth Murphy said.  Sister Beth is the Dominican Sisters of Springfield’s representative on the board of Friends of La Oroya, an umbrella organization coordinating efforts by U.S. and Peruvian religious and environmental groups to bring  Doe Run Peru  into compliance with internationally accepted emissions standards.

Sister Rose Marie Riley, OP, Prioress General of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, emphasized: “I can only hope that this decision by the EPA in Peru will encourage Doe Run to do the right thing: improve the health of thousands of La Oroya’s children; provide a cleaner, safer environment for their families, and assure medical attention for those affected by the company's pollution.“

Cleaner production alternatives are available and  are being  used at similar plants in the United States.

“Corporate social responsibility is quickly becoming the preferred method of doing business for successful multinational companies,” Sister Rose Marie said.  “Doe Run has an unprecedented opportunity to turn its biggest public relations nightmare into its greatest asset – an enduring, positive public image – built on the solid foundation of real commitment to the life and health Peru and its people – who are my people, our people – because they are God’s people.”

Since 1965 the fate and future of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield has been tied to that of the families of La Oroya. Springfield Dominican sisters have lived beside the people of Peru for the last 40 years. Seventeen years ago the first Peruvian woman made her profession of vows as a Dominican Sisters of Springfield.  Today nine native Peruvians are members of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois.

Related Links:

The Impact of Mining in Latin America

How much do mining companies in the region contribute to tax revenues, and as a result, development? The issue has generated a heated debate in Chile and Peru, the region’s two biggest metals producers. MORE

Doe Run stacks in LaOroya

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