Judges have ordered the closure of the Atrasina chemicals plant in San Nicolás, a city located in the north of of Buenos Aires province. The decision comes after an eleven-year campaign by neighbors and environmental associations against the plant’s pollution of the local environment with toxic waste, linked to the deaths of as many as 200 locals.
The plant is owned by the North American multinational Atanor, Argentina’s second-largest producer of the controversial herbicide glyphosate.
In the first official recognition of the firm’s wrongdoings, Judge Facundo Puente ordered the preventive closure of the plant. He ruled that it had been polluting the air and the local river Paraná, which separates the town from the province of Entre Ríos and merges with the river Uruguay further south, to form the Río de la Plata.
During a raid last week, court officials found the plant was not compliant with environmental regulations on waste disposal. Judge Facundo Puente gave local police powers to investigate the plant after it ignored a previous injunction to change its waste disposal policy.
In an area three blocks long and two blocks wide, neighbors claim there have been a total of 131 chemical related deaths since 2010, with some estimates going up to 200. Walter Ibarra, from the River Paraná Environmental Protection association, told Política Argentina that “the pharmacy in San Nicolas selling the most cancer drugs was the one in Barrio Química, the closest to the plant.” Almost all the residents in the area’s six blocks suffer from respiratory and skin problems.
Lawyer Fabian Maggi is representing the aggrieved group of neighbours and environmental associations. “When there is a population with such high illness and death rates near a business that deals with chemicals in such an unconscionable way as Atanor, it would make sense to presume that this is the cause of the illnesses we’re denouncing,” he told cooperative news agency Lavaca.
The judge’s ruling prohibits the entry of Atanor vehicles into the plant and orders that the police should enforce an immediate cessation of activity.