March 31st, 2014 (InsideCostaRica.com) Residents in Bagaces, one of the Guanacaste communities that has been hardest-hit by arsenic contamination of their water supplies, have had enough.
Residents will gather at 6 a.m. on Wednesday in the community’s central park, where they will proceed to march to the Interamericana Norte highway in protest of the official response to the problem.
Residents say that the Costa Rican Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (AyA) continues to fail to sufficiently address the arsenic problem, despite the fact that President Laura Chinchilla issued an emergency decree over the situation more than two years ago.
Residents also complain that they have been suffering water shortages for weeks.
Organizers of the march said in a press release that they were coordinating with traffic police, the Red Cross and the Fire Department to ensure the safety of the march.
“This march is for life, for the lives of our children, our teens, young adults and older adults, and those not yet born who are affected and whose voices have been silenced,” the statement said, adding that the only solution is the construction of a new aqueduct to supply the community.
Some 10,000 people in the community are affected by the arsenic contamination.
In September of last year, the Ministry of Health placed barrels filled with rusty nails as water filters in the homes of Bagaces residents.
The barrels – the size of a large garbage can, are filled with rusty nails, sand, clay, and stone.
Many residents don’t believe the units function in removing arsenic. Others complain that the rusty nails add a bad taste to the water. Some residents have refused to have them put in their homes, while others have returned them, though authorities claim the makeshift filters remove up to 95% of arsenic.
In May of last year, AyA recognized that that community’s water supply was indeed contaminated, but said that the situation was not the fault of the institution, nor is it responsible for the emergency health decree issued by President Chinchilla and the Ministry of Health in 2012.
However, a ruling last year by Costa Rica’s Constitutional Court (Sala IV) could pave the way for residents to sue the State for costs and damages caused by consumption of the contaminated water.
In the ruling, the judge said that the Costa Rican Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (AyA) and the Government could be held responsible for expenses and damages by affected residents.
To date, no such lawsuit has made it to the courts.
Carlos Vargas, Director of Research and Development at AyA, said further studies of the problem would be conducted in the coming days.