Colombia’s comptroller demanded to know how national authorities would address the long-standing pollution of a resort city on the Caribbean coast, which is home to municipal waste dumps and an accident-prone coal mining operation, local media reports.
Comptroller Sandra Morelli issued a warning on Tuesday after an “alarming study” revealed the extent of environmental damage suffered by the Santa Marta Bay on Colombia’s northern coast, Colombian newspaper El Heraldo reported on Wednesday.
Morelli requested reports from the Ministries of Mining, Environment, Transportation, and Tourism, requiring that each take actions to mitigate and repair damages from various causes identified in the study.
Business magazine Dinero reports that Morelli’s warning was backed by the Deputy Comptroller of the Environment, who demanded the responses within five working days.
According to the study, the causes of environmental contamination to the bay included the loading and transportation of coal docks, the use of the Manzanares river to dump solid waste into the sea, the construction of a Marina, and the operations of the Palangana landfill.
Morelli added that her office will be issuing a “special action” with regards to a coal-dumping incident involving Colombia’s largest coal company, Drummond.
In January 2013 a Drummond barge illegally dumped 2,000 tons of coal into the Bay of Santa Marta. The US coal company initially tried to cover up the massive coal dump, but was photographed by local environmental activist and journalist Alejandro Arias. According to reports provided by researchers, the ecosystem and marine life of the region will not recover for over 30 to 40 years.
In April 2014, a boat owned by Drummond, Colombia’s largest coal mining company capsized, spilling 60 gallons of diesel fuel into the sea off of Santa Marta.
Drummond, along with multinational Glencore, is currently under scrutiny after the publication of a report in which dozens of victims and victimizers testified that the mining companies financed and promoted death squads in the pursuit of “blood coal.”
According to marine biologist and environmentalist Dr. Fernando Trujillo, bodies of water that pass through the hands of multiple corporations and jurisdictions are very difficult to protect, and getting people to agree on management is complicated. A case in point is the highly contaminated Magdalena river, another victim of multiple human uses and lack of a cohesive water management policy.
Comptroller Morelli also cited the lack of coordination between different government entities in the district of Santa Marta and the town of Cienaga as contributing to the problem of pollution.
She concluded by saying that while environmental authorities should play a large role in resolving the problem, local government, port companies, and other private actors are “improperly using the nation’s resources, causing them severe environmental damage.”
Primeras decisiones por contaminación en la Bahía de Santa Marta (Prosecutor General’s Office)
- Interview with Fernando Trujillo, director of Omacha Foundation