In response to recent reports of mercury contamination at Buyat Bay in Indonesia's South Minahasa regency of North Sulawesi, local residents plugged up a waste effluent channel belonging to chemical producer PT Sorino Corp.
On Monday morning, more than 1,000 angry residents bombarded the company's factory, protesting that chemical waste and by-products from the company had been polluting the local water supply for years.
Upon seeing the mob of residents approach, security guards with Sorino established a human chain in an attempt to prevent them from breaking into the premises.
At first, the residents protested in front of the factory gates, demanding that Sorino executives meet with them. A few minutes later, they assumed that the demand was ignored and began shoving against the cordon of security guards.
Outnumbering the guards, it didn't take long for the residents to break through the human barrier and begin throwing construction materials and wood into the waste outflow channel.
"We wanted the chemical factory to shut down the waste channel, but they refused. So we have been forced to shut it down by force," Yusuf, the coordinator of the protest, told I.D. Nugroho of The Jakarta Post/Pasuruan.
The factory has allegedly been dumping chemical waste and by-products into the local river since its establishment in 1986.
In the early years of its operation, local residents did not express any concerns over the chemical waste. But this year, they began complaining about the pollution of the local rivers and artesian wells.
The well water turned reddish, Yusuf said, and they could no longer consume the water for fear they would fall ill. Karang Rejo residents were forced to buy water from mobile water vendors.
Aside from the river and wells, the protesters claimed local rice paddies also had been harmed by the water pollution.
"Local farmers couldn't bring in a harvest, as the plants had died of water pollution," said Yusuf.
Sorino executives refused to speak to journalists about the issue. The company produces sorbitol, a hyperosmotic laxative.
"The executives of the company are not available for interviews," a security guard told The Jakarta Post.
A source at the company said Sorino is planning to build a waste processing facility, but the residents had jumped the gun and intervened forcibly.