Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Better Late than Never for Doña Juana Victims

Victims of the Doña Juana mine disaster wait to register for compensation outside the Placio de Justicia today.
On September 26, 1997 Bogotá's landfill, Doña Juana, exploded and collapsed, exposing toxic materials and pumping noxious fumes into the air. Some 1.2 tons of trash slid downhill, blocking the adjoining Tunjuelo River.

The Doña Juana landfill. 
Landfill neighbors and the hundreds of trash pickers who lived off of the dump sued, and late last year the Consejo de Bogotá finally awarded 227 million pesos to some 2,000 victims, for their medical problems, including respiratory problems, allergies, skin infections and vomiting. Many were also compensated for lost work time. (The stench spread widely across Bogotá.)

The landfill had been badly managed, allowing toxic gases and liquids to accumulate until the structure collapsed. The exposed material included chemicals and organic wastes from nearby leather tanning works, which rotted quickly after being exposed.
A long wait keeps getting longer. 

Today, 15 years after the disaster, dozens of people lined up outside the Justice Palace on Plaza Bolivar to register for compensation.

The landfill now seems to be better managed. Waste pickers are no longer allowed to work there. But

the landfill has a new problem - it's predicted to reach capacity this year, and the city has arranged no alternative. Meanwhile, City Hall's 'Basura Cero' (Zero Trash) slogan doesn't seem to have changed anything - 800 garbage trucks continue dumping their loads into Doña Juana every day.

And this website claims that neighbors are still bothered and sickened by the landfill.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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