Brazil: Fire and explosion at Imerys chemical deposit in Barcarena (PA) cause toxic smoke and damage to the health of residents
On December 6, 2021, a warehouse containing sodium hydrosulfite belonging to the French mining company Imerys caught fire and exploded in Vila do Conde, a district of the city of Barcarena, Pará.
As the night progressed, Barcarena was overcome by a white smoke with a sulfur smell, a characteristic odor of the chemical stored in the warehouse. The residents of the region reported respiratory and eye discomfort and skin and mucous discomforts, besides the whitish colouration of the tap water and of the streams. According to the Barcarena City Hall, up to December 8, 71 people had sought care in health units showing symptoms resulting from the explosion.
The inhabitants of the town have mobilized to demand reparations from Imerys, claiming that the company did not offer them any kind of support during and after the event. The Federal Public Ministry (MPF), the Public Ministry of Pará (MPPA) and the State Public Defender's Office (DPE-PA) formed a task force to demand that the mining company provide drinking water, transportation, housing and medical treatment to communities in the municipality. In addition, the MPF recommended that the company give wide publicity to the facts that occurred, to the preliminary investigations of the company itself, to the measures already taken and to the measures to be taken regarding the incident, ensuring transparency for the affected population.
A group of state deputies said they had found that Imerys had been allegedly operating without an environmental license in Barcarena since 2012.
The BHRRC invited Imerys to comment on the facts and the company responded.