Authorities in Ecuador, in South America, have confirmed an oil spill of around 1,200 barrels in the Pacific Ocean.
The spill occurred on Wednesday after a tank belonging to state-owned Petroecuador exceeded its maximum capacity of 188 barrels. The tank spilled into a containment pool at the company’s Esmeraldas maritime terminal, which also overflowed onto the beach.
Around four kilometres of coastline have been affected by the spill. Around half of the total light crude spilled left Petroecuador’s facilities.
“It is estimated that around 1,200 barrels were spilled,” the company’s transportation manager Rafael Armendariz told reporters at a press conference. “Not all of them fell onto the beach. A part was contained by the pool inside of Petroecuador’s facilities.”
Las Palmas beach, where the spill occurred, is a popular destination for both locals and tourists.
General manager Roman Correa told the press conference that an investigation is underway, with a video of the presentation posted to the company’s twitter account. Negligence, mechanical damage or sabotage have not yet been ruled out, he said.
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The company said that it has controlled 90% of the spill’s impact on land and 60% at sea through its initial clean-up efforts.
Critics, however, maintain that in all instances of oil spills, the vast majority of the oil is never cleaned up due to removal difficulties.
Petroecuador said in a tweet on 20 July that it will “continue executing the necessary actions and cleaning tasks to reach 100% of the necessary work in the coming days”.
Petroecuador’s Esmeraldas terminal is located approximately 150km south of the country’s border with Colombia.
Ecuador’s Environmental Minister Jose Davalos told TV channel Ecuavisa that the spill affected crabs and possibly fish and birds in the area, according to Reuters . He is awaiting the results of the company’s assessment before issuing appropriate sanctions. “Works to fully clean up the site could take a week,” he added.
Oil spills can be devastating for local wildlife, and not only those immediately affected by the spill as contaminated waters disrupt habitats and migratory patterns.