Petrobras oil spill spreads

Brazilian government officials and environmentalists today confirmed that Sunday�s 4 million l. crude oil spill at the Presidente Getulio Vargas refinery (REPAR) in the metropolitan region of Curitiba, capital of the southern state of Parana, is Petrobras�s largest in the last 25 years.


RIO DE JANEIRO� Brazilian government officials and environmentalists today confirmed that Sunday�s 4 million l. crude oil spill at the Presidente Getulio Vargas refinery (REPAR) in the metropolitan region of Curitiba, capital of the southern state of Parana, is Petrobras�s largest in the last 25 years (OGJ Online, July 17, 2000).

According to REPAR Superintendent Luiz Valente Moreira, the spill � caused by a pipeline rupture during pumping from the S�Francisco do Sul terminal in Santa Catarina to the refinery � is now posing a serious threat to plant and wildlife in the region, and creating a risk of contamination to drinking water supplies in three nearby cities.

The 5 cm thick oil slick currently covers a 2,800 m stretch within the refinery and has reached the rivers Barigui and Iguacu. The latter is one of the main rivers in Parana, crossing 800 km of the state's territory.

Because the oil is flammable, there is also an immediate risk to the more than 70,000 people who live near the rivers in the municipalities of Sao Mateus, Uniao da Vtoria, and Porto Vitoria.

Environment Minister responds
The country�s environment minister, Jos�arney Filho, called the accident �extremely serious�, and said it eclispsed last January�s 1.3 million l. oil spill in Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro. �The oil is carcinogenic and will have devastating effects upon the environment," Filho added.

According to the minister, the situation is doubly dramatic because Petrobras does not have the technology to halt the spread of oil in the rivers. The four booms installed by the oil company�s technicians have not succeeded in stopping the oil from spreading further, and it is flowing down the Iguacu.

Filho said Petrobras would be fined more than $27.7 million, the largest penalty levied to date for environmental damage in Brazil.

Parana authorities advised the local population not to fish or consume water or animals that have been found dead in the area. To reduce the risk of fires, authorities are cautioning the population not to allow fire sources near the polluted area.

Petrobras defends itself
Petrobras President Henri Phillipe Reichstul said the cause of the disaster was being investigated, but added he did not believe either sabotage of pipelines or failure of maintenance procedures were to blame for the spill.

Besides the 400 Petrobras technicians working at the spill site, Reichstul said US company Clean Caribbean Corp. has been contracted to help contain the oil slick.

Parana's environmental officials complained that Petrobras did not inform them of the accident and only took action 2 hr after it happened, leading to concern that the five hydroelectric dams along the Iguacu River � Foz de Areia, Segredo, Salto Oz�rio, Salto Santiago, and Salto � may be damaged by the spill.

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