Brazil's Asbestos Cavalcade
On March 4, 2010, the townspeople of Avaré, in the Brazilian State of São Paulo, marked the departure from their community of hundreds of tonnes of asbestos waste with fireworks, celebrations, speeches and gifts. For years the presence of this debris had constituted an imminent hazard to the health of residents and workers in this city of 77,000 people, 270 kilometers from the State's capital. In 1998, around 250 tonnes of contaminated waste was found abandoned in an old shed on the premises of a derelict industrial site once owned by an auto parts company called AUCO.
The bankrupt company did not respond to multiple calls made by municipal authorities to decontaminate the site. Local politicians, including Mayor Rogélio Barchetti Urrêa and the town's Secretary of Environment, Mirthes Yara de Freitas Vieira, worked with federal and state officials from the Ministry of Labor and Employment and State Secretary of Environment in São Paulo, to find a resolution to this problem.1 On Thursday, four trucks, each loaded with 22 bags of asbestos debris, set off on the 400 kilometer trip to the nearest authorized landfill site.
The procession of trucks was accompanied by military police from start to finish to ensure compliance with legal requirements. The Mayor and municipal officers were joined by other Brazilian dignitaries, including Marcos Martins from São Paulo's Chamber of Deputies and Federal Labor Inspector Engineer Fernanda Giannasi, to oversee the departure of the convoy.
The town of Avaré is suing the former owners of AUCO for reimbursement of the costs incurred by the clean-up and dumping operations. The fireworks which were set off to mark this event and the atmosphere of celebration evident on the day left no doubt about the town's relief at the removal of this hazard. Commenting on the day's activities, Federal Labor Inspector Engineer Fernanda Giannasi said:
After so many years of frustration caused by the non-compliance of the polluters with government regulations and guidelines, everyone was delighted to see the trucks set off. I pay tribute to the politicans and officials of Avaré for their determination to rid their town of this toxic eyesore. It goes to show how much local people can achieve when working together to tackle a community problem.
March 9, 2010
1 Amianto começa a ser retirado de antiga fábrica na cidade de Avaré. [Translation:
Asbestos starts to be removed from old factory in the city of Avaré.] March 4, 2010.