SAO PAULO – At least 305 kilometers (190 miles) of the Paraopeba River in southeastern Brazil have been polluted following the collapse of a dam belonging to Vale mining company in January, according to a report by a non-profit released on Thursday.
The report warned of the environmental impacts of the catastrophe, which has left 166 dead and 155 missing.
A team from SOS Mata Atlantica Foundation carried out water-quality analysis at 22 different points along the river, which runs for about 510 kilometers in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais.
The expedition lasted 10 days, in which they traveled more than 2,000km along to the river whose water quality along the 305km is now “poor quality” or “bad.”
According to the report, the results were “staggering” as at all points tested there was no water found that was in usable condition.
In the last sample obtained in the Retiro Baixo resevoir, Felixlandia, SOS Mata Atlantica found that the level of turbidity was three times higher than permitted by law.
“Realizing the destruction along the river was very sad. We found people who depended on the river, looking at it, desolate, and animals still looking for food there. The river was the lives of these people and the destruction took all those dreams away,” said Professor Marta Marcondes from the Laboratory of Water Pollution, University of Sao Caetano do Sul who was part of the expedition.
The dam collapse occurred on Jan. 25 in the city of Brumadinho, in Minas Gerais where search operations continue.
Built in 1976, the containment dam had the capacity to store about 13 million cubic meters of ferrous waste and water, which destroyed the administrative area of Vale, houses, farms, inns and roads in a few minutes and with huge force.
Vale reported on Thursday that it is also monitoring water quality at 48 points and pledged to take all possible measures to ensure its usability for both human consumption and agricultural activities.
According to another calculation previously disclosed by the World Wide Fund for Nature, the deluge of mud destroyed at least 125 hectares of forest, equivalent to one million square meters or 125 football fields.
Vale President Fabio Schvartsman said on Thursday at a parliamentary committee that the company was a major asset for Brazil and cannot be condemned for the dam collapse in Brumadinho.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office argued that Vale, the largest producer of iron in the world, was since October 2018 in possession of data that warned of the risk of collapse of the structure in internal documents of the company.