Peru: Amount of spilled oil nearly double earlier estimate

Lima, Jan 28 (EFE).- Peru’s government on Friday said 11,900 barrels of crude polluted Pacific waters as a result of an oil spill earlier this month, nearly double its previous estimate of 6,000 barrels.

“The new estimate is 11,900 barrels” through Thursday from the oil spill at a refinery owned by Spanish oil company Repsol, Deputy Environment Minister Alfredo Mamani told reporters at a press conference.

He said 4,225 barrels have been recovered thus far, though adding that the water-crude oil emulsion will need to be demulsified (separated).

The clean-up effort also has led to an additional 16,258 cubic meters (573,000 cubic feet) of oil-saturated sand being collected, according to the deputy minister, who said that amount of crude has yet to be calculated.

Environment Minister Ruben Ramirez said at the start of the press conference that Peru is facing an “unprecedented scenario” in its environmental history.

He pointed to the large-scale damage to natural areas and the economic impact on vulnerable communities, including fishing towns.

Ramirez said the government has faced the environmental crisis head-on and “really is doing the work that the company (Repsol) isn’t doing.”

The spill initially affected three beaches along the coast of the Lima metropolitan area (including Callao province), according to the minister, who said it later spread as far as the coast of the port of Chancay – a total distance of 44 kilometers (27 miles).

Ramirez hailed the work being carried out by specialists and military personnel in the affected area and also applauded the solidarity gesture of Peru’s neighbors and the technical support provided by the United Nations.

A Peruvian judge on Friday barred four Repsol executives from leaving the Andean nation for 18 months, a move that comes amid an investigation into the Jan. 15 oil spill.

The ruling by Judge Romualdo Aguedo affects Repsol Peru chief Jaime-Fernandez Cuesta; the head of the La Pampilla refinery’s Maritime Terminal 2, Renzo Tejada Mackenzie; and Repsol Peru’s environmental quality and production managers, Cecilia Posadas Jhong and Jose Reyes Ruiz, respectively.

The oil spill on the coast of Callao province’s Ventanilla disrict occurred when freak waves from a tsunami-triggering volcanic eruption near the faraway island nation of Tonga rocked the Mare Doricum tanker as it was unloading nearly 1 million barrels of crude at the La Pampilla refinery.

Repsol pointed the finger at Peruvian authorities in the wake of the spill, saying the navy had failed to issue a tsunami warning. EFE


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