E-Tech Hydrogeologist Ricardo Segovia Quoted in Article About Water Quality in Block 8X, Peru

E-Tech hydrogeologist Ricardo Segovia was quoted in an article from the Indian Country Today Network about the effects of oil production on water and soil conditions in Block 8X, Peru.

From the article:

“The problem goes beyond safe drinking water, however. The seasonal rise and fall of water levels in the wetland—which can range from several feet to several yards deep, depending on the time of year—means that pollutants could be more widespread than the government testing shows, according to Ricardo Segovia, a hydrogeologist from E-Tech International, a United States-based engineering firm that is advising the Kukama association and organizations in the Corrientes, Pastaza and Tigre watersheds, which are suffering from similar problems.”

Read the whole article here.

On September 12, 2013, E-Tech engineers Ricardo Segovia and Mark Quarles entered the oil producing region of Block 8X, located entirely within the Protected Natural Area of Pacaya Samiria. E-Tech acted as a technical advisor to the Kukama indigenous federation of the area (ACODECOSPAT). Along on the trip were several government agencies in charge of environmental evaluations, potable water resources, petroleum infrastructure, and surface water resources. Many of these federal government agencies took soil and water samples in those areas where serious contamination was most visible. Results released in January of 2014 confirm what was obvious visually: Forty years of oil production in the Pacaya Samiria natural reserve has left a toxic legacy of oil spills, discharged salt water containing heavy metals, and aging pipelines that place the life of the ecosystem and human communities at risk. 

The natural reserve of Pacaya Samiria is a tropical wetland located on the south side of the enormous Marañón River that leads into the Amazon River to the east.  This environmental evaluation came about after years of pressure from local communities who were dealing with the health effects of water sources and fish contaminated by oil production. The result was the formation of the Multisectorial Commission that brought together all the different players in order to carry out a proper evaluation of contaminated sites. Some of the agencies were entering the area for the first time, which speaks to the decades of neglect in this isolated and beautiful reserve. Many of the conditions observed are in direct contradiction to the federal government’s own laws and guidelines for oil producing regions. The first is lack of access, which was only possible by walking 17km on an abandoned pipeline. The others include corroding diesel pipes, lack of elevated pipeline supports, inadequate reactions to oil spills, and infrastructure constructed directly on top of wetlands and water courses. This historic documentation of environmental damage is a first and important step in in recovering the resilience of the ecosystem and human communities in the area. 

Ricardo Segovia has also led community training workshops in Peru. You can read about his efforts bellow: 

There exists a technology gap in many isolated communities affected by contamination from large scale mining and oil projects around the world. In most cases, the only source of information is the company carrying out the exploitation of the resource or an absent national government, both having particular vested interests. These interests don’t usually align with the interests of the community living on top of the resource. This technology gap cannot be filled by a few privileged technicians parachuting in every few months. These communities need a more consistent technical literacy within the community itself in order to protect their rights and make informed decisions. 

This is the underlying goal of community training carried out by E-Tech International. The latest example is the training of indigenous environmental monitors in the Pastaza River region of Loreto, Peru at the end of 2013. Most of the indigenous monitors in Loreto work for free and leave their families for many days at a time in order to monitor the practices of the oil companies and make sure that any new pipeline breaks don’t go unnoticed. They are the experts in terms of understanding the land and the climate but require a different language in order to communicate with government agencies and oil companies. The monitors in this particular watershed have finally achieved some form of legal recognition and token wages from the regional government of Loreto. 

E-Tech engineer Ricardo Segovia ran a 4 day workshop in the Pastaza watershed to complement some of the skills of the indigenous environmental monitors. The first day consisted of theoretical work in an old schoolhouse in the town of Andoas. The first topic was site characterization, in terms of what information is most valuable when arriving at a contaminated site. The key questions are: Where did this contamination originate, how will it be mobilized in the environment, and what living systems (including themselves) will be exposed to the contaminants? Other topics included the specific types of contaminants that are found in an oil producing region, and how remediation has been successfully or unsuccessfully approached in other parts of the world. Another key component of the training is how to organize and disseminate the information in a useful way. The rest of the days were spent putting the theory into practice at the many contaminated sites found near Andoas within oil block 1AB. The only tools available to the monitors right now are GPS units and cameras, but the program has the potential to be greatly expanded in scope of work and technical legitimacy. Almost none of the indigenous monitors have had a formal education, but they have an impressive capacity for understanding complicated concepts of chemistry, soil mechanics, and engineering and an obvious thirst for more information. This capacity and dedication to learning stems from the intimate contact they experience with their surroundings on a daily basis, and because what’s at stake with the success of the monitoring program is nothing less than the health and lives of their families.

Here are some photos from Ricardo’s time in the Pacaya Samiria Reserve: