Peru pipeline leaks in Amazon; Two rivers polluted, agency says
LIMA Feb 22 (Reuters) - Ruptures in Peru's main oil pipeline have spilled 3,000 barrels of crude in an Amazonian region, operator Petroperu said Monday, and the oil has polluted two rivers native villages rely on for water, according to government officials.
Two breaks in the pipeline have halted transportation of 5,000 to 6,000 barrels of oil per day, state-owned Petroperu said.
The oil has poured into the Chiriaco and Morona rivers in northwestern Peru, said national environmental regulator OEFA. At least eight native Achuar communities rely on the rivers for water, said Edwin Montenegro, a local indigenous leader.
Peru's health ministry declared a water quality emergency in five districts near the spill.
State-owned Petroperu faces some 60 million soles ($17 million) in fines if tests confirm that the spills, in late January and early February, hurt the health of locals, said OEFA.
It could take "some time" to resume operations, said Petroperu president German Velasquez.
Petroperu operates the pipeline and also refines the oil it transports, which had slowed in recent months to between 5,000 and 6,000 barrels per day amid slumping oil prices. The pipeline mostly transports crude from block 192, operated by Pacific Exploration & Production Corp.
Heavy rains upended Petroperu's initial efforts to contain the damage as oil burst from retaining walls and spread into nearby rivers, said Montenegro.
TV images showed thickets of jungle sopped in black sludge and clean-up crews lifting buckets of crude from rivers. Continuación...