Drinking water in Peru/Brazil threatened by oil spill in Ecuador

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A landslide that damaged the trans-Ecuador pipeline and caused some 420,000 gallons of crude oil to spill into the Coca river is reportedly not only affecting Peru but could also have impacts on Brazil.

The BBC reported that the estimated 11,480 barrels of oil leaked from the landslide on May 31 have already reached the Peruvian region of Loreto, with Brazil “on alert” as the oil spill is travelling downstream towards the Brazilian Amazon.

Brazil's foreign ministry was reported to have said: “Ibama (Brazilian Institute of Environment), Brazil's navy and ANP (National Petroleum Agency) are on alert in the event that the oil slick reaches the country."

According to the BBC, the slick has already polluted drinking water in Coca, an urban area of about 80,000 people at the confluence of the Coca and Napo rivers in Ecuador.

Peru’s Environment Minister, Manuel Pulgar Vidal, told the nation’s Canal N television that it was a “serious problem” and that: “If there is a serious level of affected areas, international law always gives you the possibility to establish a compensation issue.”

Ecuadorean newspaper Diario Hoy posted a video on its YouTube channel showing stretches of the river containing crude oil (embedded below).

Specialist clear up US firm – Clean Caribbean & Americas (CCA) – has been reportedly hired by Ecuador’s state oil company, Petroecuador, to begin clean-up operations.

CCA is classed as a “Tier 3 response organization”, which means it has air mobile equipment that can be rapidly mobilized to provide assistance. The non-profit organisation said it has responded to a number of spills in the Caribbean, Latin America and North America over the past 20 years.

Although the 11,480 barrels of leaked oil will require substantial clean up and could have environmental impacts, the Deepwater Horizon disaster three years ago saw 4.9 million barrels of oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico.

By global standards Ecuador is a relatively small oil producer and exporter yet the oil sector accounts for 50% of the country’s export earnings.

Ecuador produces approximately 500,000 barrels of crude oil per day, with most of it exported to the US and China. The country’s energy mix is largely dependent on oil, with hydroelectric power providing the second largest energy source.

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