San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

President Visits Site Of Moín Chemical Fire

President Oscar Arias visited the Caribbean port region yesterday during his first trip to the area since a disastrous chemical fire took two lives and dumped pollutants into the surrounding environment.

During the trip, Arias toured the site of the fire with Ricardo Sancho, executive director of the National Water and Sewer Institute (AyA), and Lidieth Carballo, the Vice-Minister of Health. They were joined by Norma Roldán, legal representative of Químicos Holanda Costa Rica S.A., the company that owned the chemical storage plant that burned down.

On Dec. 13, an explosion ripped through the plant, built less than 75 meters from springs that supplied 20,000 residents with drinking water (TT, Dec. 15, 2006). Flames several stories tall shot upward as emergency workers battled the blaze. It took more than 11 hours to extinguish.

After their tour, Arias and Sancho told reporters that the water in the Moín spring – quarantined since the day of the fire – does not contain contaminants and is suitable for human consumption, though the institute will be conducting a final analysis this weekend, according to a statement from Casa Presidencial.

Of the 20,000 area residents who had their water service cut, all but 2,000 have had it restored.

While authorities have announced that the company – owned by a German multinational that had a similar fatal blaze occur last year at a chemical plant in Spain – will not be allowed to reopen in the same location, it appears it would be allowed elsewhere in the country once it has the proper permits and approved environmental-impact studies, the daily La Nación reported.

Meanwhile, the National Emergency Commission (CNE) has been charged with inspecting other chemical plants to see if their safety measures are up to par, and creating a contingency plan for responding to emergencies like the Moín fire.


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