Oil Spill Generates Environmental Emergency in Santander, Colombia

A black spot was seen traversing two rivers in Santander, Colombia, leaving behind the devastating effect of oil on the water. Ecopetrol, the state oil company, could face harsh sanctions.

“I have practically nothing to eat, we have lived through the river all our lives and the contamination has already reached the Magdalena.” That’s what Elkin Cala, a resident of the area, told the Colombian television channel Noticias Uno.

Hundreds of people were left without water and without food in the municipality of Barrancabermeja, Santander in eastern Colombia due to the oil spill that occurred since March 12 and whose effects are worrisome and call the attention of experts and environmental authorities.

About 2,400 animals, of various species, have died as a result of the spill.

According to the information provided by the director of the National Environmental Licenses Authority (Anla), Claudia Victoria González, the maneuvers carried out to control the spill have yielded results, although the hydrocarbon still flows but to a lesser extent.

The Colombian oil company Ecopetrol, which has been indicated as the main responsible for the situation, has declared that the rescue efforts carried out have allowed the recovery of 1,235 animals, both birds, mammals and reptiles. The stain in the affected area has an extension of 24 kilometers.

At the moment the reasons that caused the disaster are unknown.

The Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development moved to the place and has maintained contact with the authorities of the company, as well as with other institutions which could collaborate in the recovery of the affected area.

The environmentalist Julio Carrizosa draws attention to what happened due to serious environmental damage and the social consequences generated by a disaster such as the one in Barrancabermeja (398 kilometers north of Bogotá).

“It’s something that had never happened, it was a warning of what oil extraction means in vulnerable places, in places where people still live from nature. Therefore, we must be more careful with the exploitation of oil, “he told France 24.

What Carrizosa said is endorsed by the spokesperson of Anla, Claudia Victoria González, who in addition to offering a balance of the animals killed and rescued, also indicates that the more than 70 people who should have been relocated due to the situation must be taken into account. to those who should have been treated for health problems.

The situation was presented more than 20 days ago, but according to the director of the Anla, it was complicated since last March 12 due to the fragility of the contingency plans of the oil company. That is why the Minister of the Environment has indicated that there will be sanctions for the company if it concealed information.

In addition to the economic losses caused by the spill, Murillo warns that the company must compensate people who have been affected due to the failure to update their contingency plan.

“Anla will proceed to impose forceful and exemplary sanctions on Ecopetrol for not updating its contingency plans,” said Murillo.

However, in the afternoon of Monday, March 26, the Colombian company issued a statement in which it maintains that the situation is under control and will spare no effort or resources to achieve the recovery of the area.

“After crossing the point of emanation and the control, the president of Ecopetrol, Felipe Bayón, confirmed that not a drop of oil is falling to the water sources in the area,” reads part of the statement.

Also, the state oil company announced that the work done by Ecopetrol technicians installing pumping systems and treatment of fluids at the point of emission, prevent the hydrocarbons from falling into the La Lizama creek, the Caño Muerto and the Sogamoso river.

“In the next few hours a specialized team called” snubbing unit “will arrive in Colombia, which allows wells to be intervened in high pressure conditions.A team of specialized professionals will accompany the installation and commissioning of this equipment to permanently plug the well” , announced Ecopetrol.

The happened thing in the Colombian department of Santander, again opens the debate on carrying out an exploitation of hydrocarbons, without this considerably affecting the environment.

“Oil exploitation can be sustainable, it is possible and has been achieved in other countries, mining has not,” warns environmentalist Julio Carrizosa.

Oil Spill Generates Environmental Emergency in Santander Colombia

According to the expert, in order to achieve this point, oil exploitation must be developed along with an arduous program of information and the implementation of state-of-the-art technology to minimize or avoid accidents that may occur.

“The environmental damage caused by oil exploitation has to do with unforeseen things or the risks that run when you do not have enough information about certain situations, such as fracking,” adds Carrizosa.

Anla reports that more than 24,000 barrels of oil were spilled in the area. Although the oil company has removed a good part of the hydrocarbon and hopes to finish the cleaning work as soon as possible, Claudia Victoria González suggests that they could be extended for two more weeks.


Source: France 24