Tierra del Fuego: Environmental emergency in Chile after largest oil spill in 20 years

SANTIAGO – The Greenpeace Chile has filed a complaint with the Superintendency of the Environment to apply sanctions to those responsible for an oil spill that occurred this week in the Cullen Plant of ENAP, operated by Argentina’s YPF, in the southernmost province of Tierra del Fuego.

The Onemi de Magallanes on Friday confirmed the dumping of 720,000 liters of hydrocarbons to narrow river Chorrillo Paraguaya. This is the biggest spill in Chile in the last 20 years, for which Greenpeace asks the representative of the Environment for an exemplary punishment.

“Reports indicate that some 720,000 liters of oil were spilled, the equivalent of 21 15-meter tankers filled with oil. We came to establish a complaint so that the superintendent, Cristián Franz, can give an answer and apply the corresponding sanctions to those responsible for this environmental disaster that could seriously threaten the biodiversity of the area, “said Estefanía González, Greenpeace Campaign Coordinator in Chile.

“We cannot allow Patagonia to be gradually transformed into a new zone of sacrifice in Chile, we have a responsibility at the country level to protect a region and an area of immeasurable value nationally and internationally,” she added.

Following the spill, a Regional Emergency Operating Committee (COE) headed by the mayor(s), and the seremis of Government, Energy, Mining, Environment, Health, and Public Works, in addition to Firemen, Carabineros, PDI, Army, Air Force, Navy, and personnel of the Ministry of Justice gathered to determine the steps to follow.

According to information provided by YPF, the oil leak has affected an area of 6,000 square meters. According to what was reported by the company, the dumping would be controlled and mitigation measures would have been applied.

Chile’s regional secretariat for the Environment Ministry said, “The spill was contained in Rio Cullen, so it is affecting this river and several unnamed lakes.” Authorities don’t expect the spill to reach the Strait of Magellan or the Atlantic Ocean.

Authorities have yet to determine what caused the leak while YPF confirmed they have recovered 60 percent of the leaked oil.

“We will take all the measures to understand why these situations occur … and to determine what measures the companies will take to ensure these accidents do not take place because they generate gigantic environmental damage that we cannot accept,” Chile’s Environment Minister and businesswoman Carolina Schmidt said Thursday.

Senators Guido Girardi and Aysen Ordenes of the Environmental Commission announced legal actions against those responsible for the spill. “We cannot be complacent. The minister has said that everything is under control — that’s a lie, everything is not under control, this cannot be controlled. It takes a long time to control and we are going to present a criminal suit for environmental reparation,” Girardi said.

Greenpeace Chile has also expressed their concern over the spill and announced they will monitor the situation to ensure “an effective and transparent response by the authorities to minimize the effects in the area.”

The organization has also warned that “in the event that pollution reaches the sea, marine mammals can be obstructed the airways, in addition to the species that feed in this area can be poisoned.”

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