Diesel spill in Veracruz sparks threat of Pemex ban

Mexico's Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) has been warned it may no longer be allowed to operate in the state of Veracruz following criticism for its poor response to recent accidents and oil spills.

Eric Watkins
Senior Correspondent

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 1 -- Mexico's Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) has been warned it may no longer be allowed to operate in the state of Veracruz following criticism for its poor response to recent accidents and oil spills.

Veracruz State Governor Fidel Herrera Beltran launched the criticism, saying Pemex's various accidents this year have caused losses in the state estimated at 8 billion pesos ($750 million).

His remarks followed a pipeline break on Oct. 30 that sent 420,000 gal of diesel fuel into three rivers in the Gulf coast state, threatening the supply of drinking water for some 600,000 people in the region.

The state's deputy secretary for civil defense, Ranulfo Marquez, said water wells and springs had been polluted by the fuel that spilled late last week into the Coatzacoalcos River and its tributaries, the Jaltepec and the Chiquito.

The rupture occurred Oct. 25 on a subterranean pipeline, but diesel rose to the surface of a creek feeding into the Jaltepec River and from there flowed into the Chiquito and the Coatzacoalcos.

Marquez said some 1,200 people were working to clean up the fuel which, he said, formed a 200 km strip down the three affected rivers. He also said some of the barriers deployed to contain the fuel broke and allowed at least 21,000 gal of diesel to flow into the Gulf.

According to a statement by Mexico's environmental enforcement office, Profepa, the spill was brought under control when Pemex stopped pumping fuel through the pipeline 30 minutes after the accident occurred.

Pemex later issued a statement saying it had recovered 80% of the fuel spilled, that the Gulf of Mexico was not contaminated, and that the fuel slick along the rivers was about 12 km long.

It said the damaged pipeline had been repaired and that it expected to complete work on the environmental damage by Nov. 2.

The lack of safe drinking water affects the inhabitants of the municipalities of Jesus Carranza, Hidalgotitlan, Texistepec, Cosoleacaque, Jaltipan Minatitlan, and Coatzacoalcos, all on the banks of the three affected rivers.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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