QUITO – State-owned Petroecuador estimated that it will take two and a half months to clean up a heavy diesel fuel spill that contaminated the Teaone River in the northern coastal province of Esmeraldas.
The heads of the company’s health, safety and environmental units arrived at that timeframe after touring contaminated areas where cleaning crews were “manually weeding out and clearing the vegetation affected” by the July 10 spill, Petroecuador said in a statement Thursday.
Some 1,300 barrels of fuel oil spilled that day at the state-run Esmeraldas refinery, the country’s largest, contaminating two nearby rivers.
Petroecuador said a portion of the fuel oil, which spilled from overflowing holding tanks, entered a canal that flows into the Teaone River and affected animals, plants and inhabitants of the surrounding area.
The company said Thursday that the local population “will continue receiving medical assistance” for possible health problems related to the spill, adding that the clean-up and remediation of the shores of the Teaone River will be completed by mid-September if weather conditions allow.
“Technicians determined in a preliminary evaluation that, based on the characteristics of the fuel oil and the land surrounding the Teaone River, a clean-up technique using re-circulated water from that same river with biodegradable products should be employed,” while the clean-up of the vegetation should be done manually.
At the same time, organic waste will be treated at the refinery and later used for composting.
The company said that of the 1,300 barrels that were spilled, 1,150 “were deposited into the (refinery’s) canals and contingency pit” and 150 barrels flowed into the river.
Around 100 barrels have been recovered thanks to the work of the cleaning crews, while an estimated 50 barrels of fuel oil contaminated the banks of the river and the surrounding undergrowth, Petroecuador said.
The Esmeraldas refinery has the capacity to process some 110,000 barrels of crude oil per day.
Ecuador, the fifth-largest crude producer in the Americas, produces an estimated 480,000 bpd. EFE