Photo: U.S. Billionaire Ira Rennert is Latin America's Biggest Polluter
A call from an archbishop in Peru sent a public health expert to test the area surrounding La Orayo, a factory town in the Andes mountains of Peru. The expert’s findings were frightening and have since gotten the owner of the nearby refinery in hot water.
Ira Rennert’s La Oroya refinery is said to be responsible for the destruction of the land and poisoning of the area’s people.
La Oroya sits about five hours east of Lima, and health expert Fernanado Serrano traveled to the city in 2004 after receiving the archbishop’s call. He discovered that the town’s soil was so acidic it could no longer support plant life. He also found the soil to be contaminated with arsenic, antimony, and cadmium.
Even more worrisome were the results of the blood tests performed on some of the area residents. Serrano found that about 97 percent of children between six and twelve tested had blood lead levels four times higher than what the U.S. considers dangerous.
Serrano called the contamination “a big problem.”
For decades Rennert has come head to head with environmentalists and activists, though almost always managing to avoid any real trouble.
The New York-based industrialist is now having to face a criminal investigation in the U.S. after judges in New York and St Louis allowed prosecutors and lawyers representing children in La Oroya to gather evidence here in the U.S.
South America is not the only region to have had to deal with the negative effects of Rennert’s businesses.
Rennert owns the only magnesium mine in the U.S., the largest lead refinery in the U.S., and a number of steel refineries in Ohio, Maryland, and West Virginia. He also owns an auto-parts makers, a military vehicle manufacturers and a jewelry retailer.
In Utah, his magnesium refinery next to the Great Salt Lake contaminated the area for years, with the U.S. Dept. of Justice calling the “number one on the EPA’s toxic release inventory” in 2001.
A similar story can be find in Missouri near his lead refinery, where 160 homes had to be bought out because the refinery had polluted the area much. In the end, a $7 million penalty was paid and Renco Group was forced to spend $56 million to cleanup the area to settle federal pollution violations.