It's been nearly 20 years since Texaco left Ecuador, but evidence of its presence remains in the form of toxic black gunk in the soil and water. The oil company spent three decades drilling for oil and then dumping oil waste into the pits, and when it left in 1993, its cursory efforts at cleaning it up simply weren’t enough.
Pools of waste are still visible in what was once pristine jungle, and the contaminants have seeped into nearby water systems. Residents blame the black ooze for a host of problems including high cancer rates, headaches and skin ailments.
Residents of the region are angry. Villagers got sick from the pollution left behind, and filed suit against Texaco, which was acquired by Chevron in 2001. Though their case was thrown out of U.S. court on the grounds that it shouldn't be tried in America, they have since reformulated it and filed in Ecuador.
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa supports the lawsuit, calling Chevron's failure to take full responsibility for Texaco's actions "a crime against humanity."
"The damage caused by Texaco is still causing harm more than 18 years after Texaco ceased operating, and will continue to do so for centuries until it is cleaned up," says Steven Donziger, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.
The New York Times explains:
Citing scientific studies, the plaintiffs claim that toxic chemicals from Texaco’s waste pits, including benzene, which is known to induce leukemia, have leached for decades into soil, groundwater and streams. A report last year by Richard Cabrera, a geologist and court-appointed expert, estimated that 1,400 people in this jungle region — perhaps more — had died of cancer because of oil contamination.