Pure Earth’s TSIP (Toxic Sites Identification Program) identifies and assesses contaminated sites in low- and middle-income countries, where public health is at risk. Pure Earth-trained local TSIP investigators visit and document sites using the Initial Site Screening (ISS) protocol. The data is then reviewed and entered into Pure Earth’s TSIP database of polluted sites, which helps governments understand, prioritize and address pollution in their countries.
Pure Earth has completed about 80 toxic site investigations in Colombia under the TSIP (Toxic Sites Identification Program), with 14 sites assessed just between October 2019 to early 2020. Data for many of the the sites have already been reviewed and entered into the TSIP database.
In total, mercury was identified as the Key Pollutant at eight of the 14 sites. With the exception of one site that was located in an industrial zone, all of the mercury sites were related to artisanal small-scale gold mining (ASGM).
The limited number of sites makes it difficult to draw any major conclusions. Additionally, the sites are not concentrated in any one region of the country. However, based on cumulative data in the TSIP database, 41 mercury sites have been catalogued, with 33 relating to ASGM. Mining in Colombia, especially in the western region of the country, is a common informal livelihood. In many cases, miners build temporary camps nearby the sites, thus residential areas remain onsite, furthering exposure risks.
The remaining six sites of the 14 sites, listed below, were potentially impacted by lead or other pollutants.
- La Calera: Industrial Chemical Plant, Cundinamarca
- Cement Plant La Siberia
- Tiquiza, Chía: Agricultural Field with Lead Contamination
- Drinking Water Treatment Plant – Tocancipa – Lead Contamination
- Carmen de Atrato: Copper Mining
- Finca La Candelaria
Pure Earth’s TSIP work in Colombia continues with a goal of adding 20 sites by year end in 2020 on various pollutants such as mercury, lead, and pesticides with support from regional environmental and health authorities. Plans are to expand the coverage of investigations to other regions such as Santander and Risaralda.
In addition, Pure Earth held a TSIP training at the Universidad de la Sábana–Chía for two new investigators. The event included both field training with an XRF and subsequent instruction on using the TSIP database.