Almost 9,000 residents of the Central Valley town of Belén may have quenched their thirst with water laced with chromium, a heavy metal known to cause cancer.
The spring source of water for the region was discovered to be contaminated with chromium in July 2006 by the Municipality of Belén, according to a recent report in the daily La Nación.
The issue was reported to then-director of the regional Ministry of Health department, but the spring water was left open to public consumption. A report on the matter was sent to the Ministry of Health almost two months later.
In further interviews with Health Minister María Luisa Avila, she implied officials and the newspaper may have sounded a false alarm.
“Tests that followed showed chromium was not present,” she said. Avila could not say whether the initial tests may have been in error, and if not, where the chromium might have originated.
She did insist, “There was no error on the part of the Health Ministry.”