The oil spill affecting the Golfete de Coro in Venezuela is not a recent occurrence. It began in mid-August and was not immediately addressed by Petróleos de Venezuela. Estimates indicate that the oil slick, now extending over an area of eight square kilometers, corresponds to more than 26,730 barrels.
On Saturday, September 12, the Venezuelan oil company issued a press release informing of the oil stain “detected during an aerial survey”. This spill is part of a series of environmental crimes that have been denounced by fishermen, engineers, biologists, ecologists, and even the Academy of Physical, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences.
Not a recent incident
Eduardo Klein, researcher at Universidad Simón Bolívar, coordinator of the Center for Marine Biodiversity at that same university, clarified that the leak from the Río Seco pipeline “discovered” by PDVSA on Friday is not recent. “The oil spill has been there since before August 10. For more than a month,” he insisted.
In August, Klein presented a report in which, through satellite images, he determined that an oil stain was expanding to the beaches of Boca de Aroa, Tucacas, and the Morrocoy National Park. On July 31, the polluting spot covered 350 square kilometers in area and a linear extension of more than 50 kilometers. Even after PDVSA announced it was taking sanitation and corrective measures, the oil continued to flow and its origin was traced back to El Palito refinery. They were trying to refine gasoline and did not realize there was a leak in the spill tank.
PDVSA proceeds to “address and correct” the situation
Last Saturday, the state-owned company confirmed the existence of another environmental disaster. This time in the Golfete de Coro, in the Miranda municipality of Falcon state. It did not offer much information, only that it was carrying out “environmental sanitation in an area affected by a crude oil spill on line 1 Ulé-Amuay and in the sublacustre gas pipeline of the same corridor, near the Golfete de Coro area, in the Miranda municipality”. Nothing else.
The company did not offer figures or a single photograph of the specialists collecting the crude. Suspicious. Other than that, it repeated the public relations and propaganda booklet. “The leaks were immediately addressed and corrected, following the security protocols defined to guarantee the supply of crude from the state of Zulia to the Paraguaná Refining Center and thus minimize the impact on the ecosystem. We were able to control crude oil leak by applying the strategic, tactical and operational levels to respond to this unwanted event”, he repeated.
A couple of paragraphs later, the company’s propaganda office pointed out that “a technical committee tasked with carrying out, together with the relevant organizations, an exhaustive investigation and determining the causes of this eventuality has been activated.”
But it is not true. Representative María Hernández del Castillo, president of the National Assembly’s Environment Commission, said on Twitter that the oil continues to flow, that they have not been able to staple the crack in the underwater pipeline.
Refinery “spy” captured
On Friday, September 11, when the Falcon fishermen did not know who to call to stop the pumping, Nicolás Maduro announced that the state security forces had apprehended a U.S. spy near the Amuay refinery. This refinery receives the oil that comes from Zulia through the Ulé-Amuay gas pipeline. They saw the alleged spy, but not the 5-mile oil slick.
“We have captured an American in Falcon spying on the Amuay and Cardón refineries. Sophisticated weapons and large sums of money were seized from him,” he said. He did not provide details or evidence, but called on oil workers to tighten security measures. “It is a war of revenge by the gringo empire to prevent Venezuela from producing all oil derivatives,” he cried. Distraction or irresponsibility? The spill did not stop.
The Paraguaná Refining Complex, which until 1999 was the largest gasoline producer in Latin America, has experienced a multitude of accidents over the past decade, from explosions with dozens of deaths, fires and blackouts, due to mismanagement, corruption and lack of maintenance.
Oil spills: ecological and economic disaster
Friday marked a week since the Rio Seco fishermen’s alert. The flow of oil kept growing and nobody paid attention to them. They watched helplessly as the oil destroyed the ecosystem where they harvest shrimp on the island of Maraguay, in Rio Seco. Their livelihood. The spill from the pipeline rupture also affects the coast and the Medanos de Coro National Park.
Luis Stefanelli, representative for Falcon, denounced that PDVSA should be criminally charged for acts of criminal negligence. “Despite the alerts about the leak, they did not stop pumping crude. They were more interested in refining a few liters of gasoline than in avoiding irreversible damage to the environment,” he said.
The Azul Ambientalistas Foundation also joined the complaint. “Now the pollution reaches the Rio Seco area in Falcón. Local fishermen recorded the impacted area and researcher Eduardo Klein from the Simón Bolívar University provided satellite images where the oil slicks can be seen,” he indicated.
Impact on marine turtles and dolphins
This area of the Venezuelan Gulf is the habitat of sea turtles, sharks and dolphins. Furthermore, the eastern end has a wetland of great biodiverse value, the Ciénaga de los Olivitos.
The Ecologist Association for Environmental Preservation of Falcon pointed out that the black mangrove predominates in Golfete de Coro. The presence of hydrocarbons and chemicals affects its roots and causes suffocation and the massive death of the forest.
Several environmental NGOs and politicians have reiterated their alerts about the serious environmental damage that affects the coasts of the states of Carabobo and Falcon due to frequent and recurrent oil spills. In August, a spill from the El Palito refinery formed a slick that covered of 260 square kilometer in area and 60 kilometers long. That was the repetition of another spill that occurred in July and that shares the same source: lack of maintenance, inexperience and improvisation.
Oil spills create “dead zones”
Pollution of ecosystems by hydrocarbons cannot be overcome with simple days of cleaning and sanitation of what is at first glance. Without a real investigation that quantifies magnitudes and tries to neutralize the environmental and ecological impact, the damages are terrible and irreversible. The permanence of oil on the coasts and aquatic bodies undergoes a progressive degradation process that magnifies its aggressive impact on ecosystems. With the glare of the sun on the water, one part of the hydrocarbon turns into gases and the other turns into an oily layer that blocks gas exchange, mainly oxygen. When it reaches the shore, it becomes a jelly that pollutes fresh water, poisons flora and destroys the soil.
Oil-related environmental disasters create dead zones where life cannot be sustained. It is an effective way to end the planet, not just its beaches and landscapes.
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