CanArgo oil trace in Georgia14.09.2009 | 15:39
Rights defenders are back to CanArgo Georgia (USA) compensation to Sagarejoy district residents. The oil spill five years ago is still affecting people's health and the court is not impartial conducting the investigation as the Human Rights Protection Center believes. The company assured GeorgiaTimes of being ready to conduct new ecological expertise and denies putting pressure on judicial bodies.
A few days ago the Human Rights Protection Center in Georgia held an extraordinary press conference on the situation of the people that had fallen victims to CanArgo Georgia oil corporation, GHN reports. The center's executive director Ucha Nanuashvili provided evidence that as a result of the accident on September 10 2004 at an oil well in Ninotskminda several hectares of forest were destroyed, soil and drinking water were poisoned. Subsequently cancer and death rates in Sagarejoy district went up dramatically.
The Human Rights Protection center is defending the rights of the villagers in court. But as Ucha Nanuashvili remarks, the latest ruling of the court on new environmental expertise after the accident at the oil well vanished from the case. According to the rights defender this fact is direct indication of the court's partiality.
The accident at Ninotskminda deposit where CanArgo (USA) operates was a major disaster for Georgia. Oil and gas started streaming from oil-well number 100 at an extremely high pressure. Strong wind was taking oil and gas about carrying them to two villages - Ninotskminda and Tskarostavi. Locals reported that the "oil rain" had lasted two days and a half until finally the company had managed to bring oil spillage to a halt.
A month after the catastrophe at the oil well the experts that were investigating the cause of disaster presented a statement that the drill operators were totally in charge of the emergency. Unpredicted and uncontrollable processes deep in the ground beneath oil well № 100 led to the accident.
Remarkably Georgian media reported that CanArgo Georgia was using old Soviet machines that are per se hazardous.
The oil spillage damaged nearly 30 ha of the forest. Three hectares are completely lost, locals assured. The villagers suffered from symptoms of gas poisoning for three days. Drinking water was poisoned so the people had to carry the water in containers from neighboring villages.
The people organized protest actions asserting that the oil contamination brought on ulcerous rash, allergy of respiratory passages, deterioration of sight and general health. Besides as the local people reported after the disaster three villages started having problems with drinking water.
As Soso Tsabadze, CanArgo consultant told GeorgiaTimes the company did its best to liquidate consequences of the accident by stopping the oil from spilling and mobilizing the equipment. But then the leading role was taken over by the insurer who financed cleaning operations and conduct of ecological audit as well as damage assessment and payment of compensations. The foreign companies specializing in oil spillage were involved in liquidation of accident consequences. There was another company dealing with people's health hazard assessment.
According to Tsabadze ecological audit went on for a year and a half. The statements of the commissions contained over 200 pages. These results were immediately submitted to several power structures: ministries, local authorities, health care department and ombudsman's administration.
Tsabadze confirms that organic compounds were indeed found in drinking water. "But we totally made up for the damage. The insurers paid the total of USD 980 thousand to the residents", - he remarks.
The content of oil products in the atmosphere was three times higher than the norm. "However in Rustaveli avenue it is five times higher. We understand that rural people are used to fresh air. Some of them could have asthma flare-up and other diseases. We established a medical commission, financed treatment and medicines for the aggrieved, provided insurance policies - over 4 thousand - to all people of the district", - the company's consultant told adding that no one of those who had gone to hospital with these policies referred to the oil well accident as the reason. Tsabadze specified that methane and raw oil that penetrated the atmosphere, soil and water are not very toxic substances.
CanArgo Georgia also bought grape and other fruit harvest at a market price processing them into industrial alcohol.
Soso Tsabadze complains that the rights defenders operating on behalf of Ninotsminda residents have not duly considered the position of the other party to the conflict. As the oil company representative explains the company's executives don't mind a new ecological assessment provided it is carried out by licensed assessors. "We could in no way influence the court, neither are we involved in disappearance of papers from the case. We are ready to dialogue and provide all necessary documentation", - Tsabadze emphasized.
The US oil company spokesman highlighted he had been to Ninotsminda a short while before to speak to local people who assured him that the ecological issues were much less important for them than gas tariffs and general social disorder.