Norsk Hydro faces toxic waste lawsuit

A class action lawsuit is being brought against Norwegian aluminium and renewable energy producer Norsk Hydro for toxic waste pollution the company is allegedly causing in northern Brazil.

The lawsuit ­seeks compensation for “the incorrect disposal of toxic waste in the Murucupi River, as well as other effects from the presence of Norsk Hydro installations in the region,” according to law firm PGMBM.

The lawsuit is brought on behalf of a group of communities who live in the lower Amazon region in the Brazilian state of Para, mainly members of Cainquiama – the Amazon Association of Mixed Race, Indigenous and Quilombolas – representing some 11,000 families.

Hydro has three installations in Para: Paragominas, a bauxite mine; Alunorte, a refinery where the bauxite is transformed into alumina; and Albras, where smelters turn alumina into aluminium.

“Victims have been exposed to toxic residues from the processing of aluminium, which can cause health problems such as increased incidences of cancer, Alzheimer’s, skin diseases, stomach problems and diarrhea,” PGMBM claims.

The lawsuit, which is being filed in the Netherlands, also refers to a 2018 spill that occurred at Alunorte.

In early 2018, Hydro apologised for what it said was a “completely unacceptable” spill of untreated water during severe rains at Alunorte but denied that this had resulted in a contamination of the local environment.

The unlicensed release of water led authorities and courts to demand that Hydro curtail its alumina output from Alunorte, triggering in turn the partial shutdown of Albras, resulting in outages that lasted more than 15 months.

PGMBM said the claimants were not filing the lawsuit in Brazil because they were “frustrated at a lack of progress in the Brazilian legal system”.

A spokesman for Norsk Hydro said: “Hydro entities have received notification about a Dutch lawsuit by Cainquiama and will respond as requested before the Dutch court.

The matters brough forward by Cainquiama are already being discussed before Brazilian courts and Brazilian authorities. The Cainquama association has since 2017 filed 5 lawsuits in Brazil against different Hydro entities in Brazil. In respect of the 2018 rainfall event, there was no overflow and no evidence of contamination.”