Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Father of Six Moved To Find A Good Job With Texaco, Died of Cancer After Living Near Oil Well

The Chevron Pit is featuring a series of personal stories about how the oil contamination left behind by Chevron has impacted the people living near Texaco’s former oil sites.

This story is about Luz Maria Martin and her deceased husband Angel Toala, who died of stomach cancer. Senora Martin gave an interview to authors Lou Dematteis and Kayana Szymczak for their book Crude Reflections. Other stories and a copy of the book can be obtained here:

Angel Toala

Luz Maria Martin, widow of Angel Toala, who died of stomach cancer
Texaco Shushufindi Oil Field/ Shushufindi

My husband, Angel Toala, and I came here to the Amazon 23 years ago from the mountains of San Domingo. We came because he was told you could earn good money with the [oil] companies here. We have six children.

Angel worked on the pipeline for Texaco for five years, and that’s how we’ve been able to buy this farm. Mostly we grew coffee, plantains, yucca, some cacao.

There’s [Texaco] pumping station near our house and a [Texaco] oil well 200 yards from our house, and downstream is a lake where the crude oil they dumped gathers. We never let the animals drink the water. A lot of times we found dead fish in it. Our coffee plants there turned yellow and died.

We got our drinking water from the rain, and, when it didn’t rain, from the stream. It had a funny taste and sometimes you could see oil floating on top. We bathed there and washed our clothes there. We knew the water was bad for our health, but what could we do? There wasn’t water anywhere else.

I don’t think the oil company (Texaco) worried if they contaminated the water. We farmers didn't realize the water was contaminated, and certainly it was not in oil company’s interest to tell us that.

About three years ago, my husband started having stomach pains, slight pains when he ate. He couldn’t eat as much as he used to. (Crying) Certain foods made him feel bad, and he couldn’t eat meat, or fish. About a year ago he started losing weight.

(Crying) Then his back began hurting, and his muscles. He felt tired. At the end, he couldn’t take the sun. He was so tired; he didn’t have any energy.

In Quito he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. We took him to the Eugenio Espejo Hospital but the doctors said that it was too late; nothing could be done.

(Crying) The last three months before he died, he couldn’t do anything. He just lay in the hammock.

Angel Toala