27 Jan 2022, 09:30

New oil leak off Peru coast amid crude spill cleanup

 EL CALLAO, Peru, Jan 27, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - A fresh oil leak has occurred off the coast of Peru -- already cleaning up after a major crude spill 10 days earlier -- during work on an underwater refinery pipeline, the government said Wednesday.
   The leak occurred Tuesday during work at the La Pampilla refinery, owned by Spanish energy giant Repsol, the environment ministry said, though the company denied it.
   The work was being done "prior to the removal of the PLEM (pipeline end manifolds), used for underwater collection and distribution" between the refinery and ships, the ministry's OEFA environment monitoring agency said.
   It did not say how many liters were spilled.
   Late Tuesday, hours before the authorities reported the new leak, Repsol denied there had been one.
   "We rule out a second oil spill. We warn the population about the circulation of false information," Repsol Peru said on its website.
   But the Peruvian Navy said in a statement that on Tuesday, during a flyover to monitor the area affected by the first spill, an "oily spot" was observed near the pipeline.
   It consulted Repsol, which told it a leak had occurred "despite work having been done to remove the crude prior to inspection and repair" of the pipeline.
   - Environmental emergency -
   A tanker was offloading crude at the same refinery in Ventanilla, 30 kilometers (19 miles) north of Lima, when it spilled 6,000 barrels into the ocean on January 15.
   Repsol said the tanker was hit by waves triggered by a tsunami after a massive volcanic eruption near Tonga.
   The Peruvian government is demanding damages from Repsol, but the Spanish company denies responsibility, saying maritime authorities had issued no warning of freak waves after the Tonga eruption.
   The new leak happened as hundreds of volunteers and hired hands raced against the clock to clean beaches after the initial spill from the Italian-flagged tanker "Mare Doricum".
   Peru has declared an environmental emergency after almost 264,000 gallons (1.2 million liters) of crude oil spilled into the sea on that occasion.
   The environment ministry said Sunday that more than 180 hectares -- equivalent to around 270 soccer fields -- of beach and 713 hectares of sea were affected, as sea currents spread the spilled oil along the coast.
   Countless birds and marine creatures have been killed, the tourism and fishing industries hit, and the health ministry has warned would-be bathers to stay away from at least 21 affected beaches.
   The environment ministry's prosecutor Julio Cesar Guzman said Wednesday that four Repsol employees, including the production and environment managers "responsible for risk assessment," will be called to give statements.
   "The damage is undeniable, the company has to answer as far as it can, because this is irremediable," Guzman told the RPP broadcaster.
   Almost daily, dozens of fishermen are protesting on the beaches affected by the spill, prevented from going out to sea to make ends meet.
   "I'm afraid I might get sick, I'm afraid I might fall or absorb a little oil, you never know, no matter how much PPE (personal protective equipment) you have," fisherman Jonathan Envites told AFP while helping the cleanup operation at Cavero Beach.
   Another cleaner, Hector Fernandez, said the situation was "frustrating."
   "It is contaminating the entire beach and thus affects several people who come to spend the summer and the fishermen who work every day to earn their living with sweat, with fishing."
   Salons in the country have been offering free cuts to collect hair to help soak up the oil.

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