Oil Spill in Ecuador after Mudslide Damages Oil Pipeline

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Photo credit: AFP 2022

By Nicholas Williams

A large oil spill occurred on Friday, January 28th, 2022 after a downpour led to a mudslide in eastern Napo Province in Ecuador. A large boulder struck an oil pipeline causing approximately 6,300 barrels, or 264,600 gallons, of crude oil to spill from this major pipeline into the Cayambe-Coca National Park. Within this park lies the Coca River which is one of Ecuador’s biggest tributaries to the Amazon River. This prominent river was coated with oil along a significant portion of its banks. The water within the Coca River is vital to many wildlife species and native people who call the riverbank home. Many of these riverside villages house the indigenous population within the region. Crude oil is toxic to ingest for both people and animals, and with the main water source being contaminated, those who depend on this river as a source of drinking water will need to rely on outside aid. This devastating result led to loss of livestock for riverbank dwellers along with foul smelling fumes that came from their water source.

The oil leak was initially reported by the owners of the pipeline, OCPEcuador, a private oil company. OCPEcuador owns the 485-kilometer oil pipe (approx. 301 miles) that pumps 160,000 barrels of crude oil daily out of oil reservoirs within the jungle. OCPEcuador also reported that the cleanup efforts resulted in recovery of 5,300 barrels of oil. The company claimed that they will spare no expense to comply with all financial remediations along with clean up responsibility. Ideally this is the case; however, it is unlikely that the ramifications of this spill will be solved in the short term. Hopefully, OCPEcuador’s readiness to take responsibility for this incident will continue into the future and includes the assurance of drinking water delivery and all attempts to rectify irreversible damage caused by oil contamination in both the near and long term.

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