Since the breach of dam I, in Brumadinho monitoring of the water from Paraopeba river, as well as supply and management of water for the population, is Vale’s priority. On this page, you will learn more about the company’s initiatives.

Water Monitoring

Vale remains committed to expediting the environmental recovery of Paraopeba river watershed and its surroundings. Environmental recovery is divided into four action fronts:

Preservation of local flora and fauna

Removal of tailings on land and inside the river, sending them to safe and controlled areas

Containment of tailings, preventing them from reaching the river in rainy periods

Monitoring and recovery of water and soil quality

The company also has water quality monitoring points between Paraopeba river and the mouth of São Francisco river – including main tributaries of Paraopeba river basin – to daily collect water and soil samples, as well as to perform 24-hour analyses of turbidity levels.

How Is It Done?

  • Daily collection of water and sediment samples
  • Hiring of laboratories specialized in this type of analysis
  • Almost 250 professionals involved
  • Evaluation of the methodology applied and data validation by the Coordination Department of Engineering Graduate Programs of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (Coppe-UFRJ, Coordenação de Programas de Pós-Graduação em Engenharia da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro)
  • Turbidity analysis through automatic probes

Paraopeba Will Be Monitored by IGAM

Vale has signed an Agreement (TC, Termo de Compromisso) with the Prosecution Office of Minas Gerais (MPMG, Ministério Público de Minas Gerais) transferring all activities related to monitoring of water resources and sediment along Paraopeba river basin and São Francisco river to the Water Management Institute of Minas Gerais (Igam, Instituto Mineiro de Gestão de Águas). In addition, Vale will bear the costs incurred with the hiring of an independent technical audit that will be responsible for overseeing the transfer process, scheduled to last 26 months. Until then, the audit will be responsible for overseeing the monitoring activities carried out by the company.

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Water Distribution

Vale supplies water for rural properties and residences that depended on water withdrawal from Paraopeba river or water tables located less than 100 meters from the river bank. Demands are met according to each action front:

Corrective actions

Actions towards animal and human consumption, as well as production irrigation.

Preventive actions

To guarantee water safety in locations affected by B1 dam breach, Vale is conducting several construction works, such as drilling of artesian wells, installation of high-performance filter systems, and implementation of stations for water withdrawal and treatment.


See below the municipalities to which Vale works on water supply.

  • Brumadinho
  • São Joaquim de Bicas
  • Mário Campos
  • Betim
  • Esmeraldas
  • Juatuba
  • Florestal
  • Pará de Minas
  • São José da Varginha
  • Pequi
  • Pompéu
  • Curvelo
  • Maravilhas
  • Papagaios
  • Paraopeba
  • Fortuna de Minas

Volume of Water Distributed

Up to now, Vale has already distributed a total of

million liters of water

415.3 million liters
Animal consumption
253.6 million liters
Human consumption
136.8 million liters
Data from August 2nd, 2020

Construction Works for Water Supply

Water Supply Systems

Construction works of new water supply systems to serve the population of Pará de Minas and metropolitan area of Belo Horizonte are underway. The systems include the construction of three new pipelines. Two of them are for water withdrall, one on the Pará River, in Pará de Minas, and the other on the Paraopeba River, located 12 km above the current withdrall structure, in Brumadinho. The other will interconnect the water supply systems of the Paraopeba River Basin to that of the Rio das Velhas Basin, located in the Novo Glória neighborhood in Belo Horizonte.

The pipeline that will make the interconnection between the systems will guarantee the improvement in the current distribution system and was designed to meet a flow rate of 430 l/ s.The others construction works will guarantee the same flow rate of the interrupted withdrawal systems, and operations will be carried out by the Water Utility Company of Pará de Minas (Capam, Concessionária Águas de Minas Gerais) and Sanitation Company of Minas Gerais (Copasa, Companhia de Saneamento de Minas Gerais).

Protection of Bela Fama

Although it was not impacted by the Dam I breach, the Das Velhas river is receiving a preventive investment. Among the initiatives contemplated in the investment is the installation of a containment barrier that surrounds the catchment of Bela Fama, in Nova Lima. This barrier is approximately 3 meters high and 300 meters long and its works were completed in december 2019. In addition to the barrier, Vale is also studying a complementary system for the Bela Fama Treatment Station, with the aim of strengthening the system, increasing the efficiency of current treatment processes and ensuring water potability.

R$559 million are being invested

The water supply system in Pará de Minas is expected to be delivered in July 2020

The RMBH water supply system, in Brumadinho, is expected to be delivered in September 2020

The pipeline system that will interconnect systems in Belo Horizonte is expected to be delivered in March 2020

Drilling and Reactivation of wells

Another action that Vale has taken is the drilling of tubular wells in some regions for water supply.

Until now, Vale has already drilled

76 wells in 15 municipalities
  • Pará de Minas
  • Paraopeba
  • Caetanópolis
  • Barão de Cocais
  • Brumadinho
  • Betim
  • Esmeraldas
  • Fortuna de Minas
  • Maravilhas
  • Mario Campos
  • Papagaios
  • Pequi
  • Pompéu
  • São Joaquim de Bicas
  • São José da Varginha

High performance filters

Vale is making water filtration equipment available to rural producers using wells and cisterns near the Ferro-Carvão stream and the Paraopeba river. The forecast is that by the month of June, around 250 systems will be available in 20 municipalities, from Brumadinho to Três Marias. The filters aim to make the water potable, complying with the regulations. The different technologies for treatment are selected for each property, according to the level of water quality in wells or cisterns, in order to guarantee the safety of users.

River Water Treatment Plant

The River Water Treatment Plant (ETAF, Estação de Tratamento de Água Fluvial), located in the region of Alberto Flores, started its operations in May 2019; it can treat almost two million liters of water per hour, which corresponds to almost 20 Olympic-size swimming pools a day. It aims to clean the Ferro-Carvão stream and dispose the treated water in the Paraopeba River.

About ten billion liters of clean water have already been treated and returned to Paraopeba river

How Does It Work?

A sheet pile curtain has been installed for river tailings containment. The water from this area is withdrawn and pumped to the ETAF

In the ETAF, solids are separated by decantation; then, the water is filtered and returns clean to the tributary of the Paraopeba

The solids decanted in the sedimentation basin are sent to large containers – known as geotextile tubes – to contain, store, and dewater the tailings

The water drained from these containers is sent to the filtering system installed and, then, to the river

Solids retained in the geotextile tubes are removed and transferred to an area previously defined and authorized by relevant authorities

Learn More about the Impact of Tailings on Paraopeba River

What Is Water Turbidity?

It is a physical property of liquids that reduces transparency due to the presence of suspended material that affects the path of light through the fluid. It works as an important parameter for the adequate conditions of drinking water.

What Causes Turbidity?

Turbidity is caused by the presence of some suspended solids, such as silt, clay, silica or colloids, organic and inorganic matter, microscopic organisms, and algae. These materials come from several sources – soil, mining, sand withdrawal or clay exploration, industries, or domestic sewage. After heavy rainfall, surface waters also become turbid due to sediments flow from the banks.

Are Tailings in Paraopeba River Harmful to Health?

Iron ore tailings are mostly composed of ferrous minerals and quartz, considered inert, as per NBR 10.004 from the Brazilian Technical Standards Association.

Are There Studies about the Impact of Toxic Substances on the Environment?

Vale has concluded ecotoxicity tests with bacteria and aquatic invertebrates (according to ABNT standards) on water and sediment samples collected along the Paraopeba River to the São Francisco River, in order to understand the consequences of tailings deposits in the watercourse for biodiversity.

So far, there are more than 10,000 ecotoxicological analyzes, including the periods before and after the passage of the tail plume. In addition, about 4 million physical-chemical analyzes of water, soil and sediments have already been carried out on more than 31 thousand samples. These analyzes monitor various parameters, such as the presence and quantity of metals, pH and water turbidity.

The tests carried out during the dry season indicated an attenuation of the concentrations of the analyzed elements, resulting in a greater number of parameters within the limits allowed by the legislation. Studies continue to be carried out during the rainy season.

The work is conducted by independent specialized laboratories and involves approximately 250 professionals.

Is It True that Heavy Metals Are Native to the Region?

Analyses of 1,019 historical soil samples from the region conducted by the Brazilian Geological Survey Organization (CPRM, Companhia de Pesquisa de Recursos Minerais), and 124 sediment samples collected by Vale’s Mineral Development Center (CDM, Centro de Desenvolvimento Mineral) at the watershed, show that arsenic and lead concentrations in the area affected by tailings are in line with those of other regions and below the acceptable threshold established by the resolution 420/2009 from the National Council for the Environment (Conama, Conselho Nacional de Meio Ambiente). Historical geochemical data have shown that metal concentrations in tailings are below or at the same level as those recorded in public databases about soil.

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