Brazil oil workers rush to contain spill

July 18, 2000
CURITIBA - Workers are straining to contain the country's biggest spill in 25 years after a burst oil pipeline gushed more than 1 million gallons of crude oil into a tributary of the Iguacu river, according to reports from Associated Press and Reuters.

1 million gallons of crude oil threaten water supplies

CURITIBA -- Workers are straining to contain the country's biggest spill in 25 years after a burst oil pipeline gushed more than 1 million gallons of crude oil into a tributary of the Iguacu river, according to reports from Associated Press and Reuters.

The broken pipeline spilled oil into the Barigui river, near the southern city of Curitiba, for about two hours July 16, spreading 25 miles by midday July 17.

A 1-million-gallon oil spill in Brazil turns the Iguacu river brown.
Click here to enlarge image

The spill already has killed fish, birds and mammals and more than 10,000 riverside residents. Television news footage showed a black river winding through the countryside. Local residents told Globo TV that the stench of oil made it difficult to breathe.

Federal oil giant Petrobras, the owner of the refinery where the spill occurred, said the accident was about three times the size of its last major accident in Rio de Janeiro's Guanabara Bay in January.

Workers from the Getulio Vargas oil refinery in Araucaria dug runoff channels to collect the contaminated water, set up eight barriers and used hoses to collect oil from the surface of the Iguacu river. The workers are trying to keep the spill from reaching Uniao da Vitoria, a city of 70,000 people about 125 miles below the slick. The city uses the Iguacu for drinking water.

Environmentalists hope the slick does not reach the major tourist attraction Iguacu Falls, about 400 miles downstream.

The refinery where the leak began is owned by federal oil giant Petrobras, whose president said it will accept full responsibility for the accident. The Parana State Environmental Protection Agency has said it will fine Petrobras $28 million.

If the barriers fail to halt the oil, a dam and a reservoir immediately downstream after the city will collect whatever slips by.

Petrobras president Henri Phillipe Reichstul said that the company is investigating the cause of the rupture in the 23-year-old pipeline and that a report would be published within 72 hours.

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