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Monday, May 23, 2022

Between delays and contradictions: the irremediable traces one month after the Repsol spill

I had the boxes of strawberries, mangoes, lucuma bought. The milk, the bags, the sugar. There was a lot of sun, the beaches were finally open and the summer season was promising. Josefina Arias was ready to prepare the pacifiers with which she has been able to support her family every year. Until the oil Repsol muddy the Bahía Blanca beach in Ventanilla.

READ ALSO | Cleaning up the Repsol spill by hand: the methods they use to remove the oil from the rocks | 360° VIDEO

He lost his investment and the possibility of having income for the year that had just begun. Outside his only refrigerator full of unsold Martians were all his fruits that little by little went bad. He says that if he miraculously survived the pandemic, he doesn’t know how he will do now. “We get rid of the dirt for three months to sustain ourselves throughout the year. It’s not fair”claim.

This Tuesday marks one month of oil spill from the refinery The Pampilla and the ecological and social damage is far from being remedied. Marine animals died, 29 beaches in Lima were contaminated, oil affected five reserved areas and thousands were left without work overnight.

Traders on the Bahía Blanca beach in Ventanilla lost their source of income due to the spill. Your investment and your merchandise was lost. (Britanie Arroyo /@photo.gec)

David Condori, president of the Bahía Blanca merchants association, which brings together some 50 families, denounces that so far he has only received a basket and vouchers that are not enough, especially now that classes are approaching. “Repsol gave us consumer vouchers of 500 soles for 15 days. They say they are evaluating our case. How will it reach us? we have strong needs, study, health. We don’t have a job, we live on donations, ”he told this newspaper last Friday.

cleaning delays

The biggest ecological disaster that Lima has experienced began on Sunday, January 15, at the multibuoy terminal No. 2 of La Pampilla, owned by the Spanish multinational Repsol YPF. What followed was a series of contradictions and delays on the part of the company.

“From the beginning Repsol has wanted to minimize the terrible attack that has left hundreds of families homeless. There is no beach season for Ventanilla and that has mattered little to them for several weeks”maintains Pedro Spadaro, mayor of Ventanilla who denounced how they were trying to clean up the Petroleum with dustpans and buckets in the early days.

If that was evident improvisation was a problem, the different versions about the magnitude of the leak resulted in the extension of the damage to the Calichera de Chancay beach, 64 kilometers from the origin of the incident. The first day they said that 0.16 of a barrel of crude was spilled, then it was 6,000 barrels until finally, two weeks later, Repsol recognized that it was more than 10,300 barrels. That is, it went from 25 liters to 1 million 650 thousand liters of Petroleum dumped into the sea

The social and environmental impact after the misfortune caused by Repsol.
The social and environmental impact after the misfortune caused by Repsol.

According to former Environment Minister Rubén Ramírez, the company’s response showed that it had a contingency plan “only on paper” and that its different versions led to the error OEFAentity that until now has imposed a fine of 100 UIT (S / 460,000) for not complying with the cleaning within the 8-day period that was initially given.

Last Friday, Repsol reported that they have progressed 67% with the cleaning of the leak in sea and beaches. However, specialists warn that the work is barely superficial.

For biologist Juan Carlos Riveros, scientific director of the NGO Oceana Peru, even speaking of a 50% cleanup is already exaggerated because the oil that is sinking to the bottom of the sea is not being addressed due to the late response of the company. Although he acknowledges that cleanup actions have increased, he considers that they are insufficient. “They have picked up the pace, they have a lot more people and new machinery, but they only talk about what you see on the shore. The Petroleum in the water it has not come out and there are areas that have not been touched such as the cliffs of Pasamayo that are bathed in oil or Aucallama, where there are beaches as well. With the days of waves [hay un aviso vigente de la Marina] will be noticed again”indicates.

This photo is from the last Friday of Cavero beach in Ventanilla.  It will take a long time to remedy the affected area.  (Julio Reaño /@photo.gec)
This photo is from the last Friday of Cavero beach in Ventanilla. It will take a long time to remedy the affected area. (Julio Reaño /@photo.gec)

Yuri Hooker, marine biologist and coordinator of the UPCH Biology Laboratory, adds that true cleaning for a oil spill It is a task of years. For now, the fact that mussels, crabs or sea urchins continue to beach shows that the organisms that live in the intertidal zone are accumulating toxins. ”To say that a place is clean, it has to be analyzed that there are no traces of oil on the seabed and the organisms. These are processes that can last decades. They are cleaning only what people see.” warns.

José Terol, responsible for the control center of Repsolin charge of the cleaning operation, recognized that the work for now does not include attention to the damage to the seabed. “Once we remove all the hydrocarbon from the surface, and we have already processed the corresponding permits to the authorities, it will be the final process, which includes an analysis of the environmental impact of the spill and that includes analysis and determination of the possible presence of hydrocarbon in the water column and in the marine segment”, he told this newspaper.

The Disaster Route.
El Comercio visited three of the beaches most affected by the oil spill on January 15. The oil has spread about 44 kilometers along the national coastline. (Video: Oscar Ramírez Ch.)

He estimated that by the end of this week they will finish with the cleaning of the crude oil on the sea, at the end of February on the easily accessible beaches and by the end of March on the cliffs of difficult access. The rest, however, will take longer. “We have requested the permits to start sampling or analysing, we estimate that it will take about six months to fully elaborate the impact of the leak in all aspects”He said.

Damage that cannot be cleaned

According to Javier Jara, a veterinary doctor from the Technical Administration of Wild Flora and Fauna of Lima (ATFFS) of Serfor, so far they have recovered more than 240 animals affected by the Petroleum, half did not survive. Not counting other species that died almost immediately.

“In Ancón Bay there was a family of otters and several specimens that lived there for years have died. Between the Cavero and Bahía Blanca beaches (Ventanilla) there has also been a record of otters swimming, but they are feeding on contaminated biological records and in the long run they will have some type of disease and die,” he tells this newspaper.

Birds completely covered in oil can be seen in the rocky areas of the sea coast in Peru.  Photo: Sernanp.
Birds completely covered in oil can be seen in the rocky areas of the sea coast in Peru. Photo: Sernanp.

However, Riveros points out that the impact will be much greater and prolonged. He estimates that of the approximately 140,000 birds on islands near the area of ​​the leak, at least 1,500 could have died and those who survived will have genetic problems. “There are many possibilities that the birds exposed to the hydrocarbon that have not died have offspring with genetic malformations or their eggs do not work. The next reproductive season we may have more losses”, holds.

Just on February 9 Repsol signed an agreement with Serfor and the Parque de las Leyendas to pay for the care of the species that survived the ecological disaster.

Hooker adds that it is also necessary to know the impact on the health of cleaning workers. Already last Tuesday, the Minsa reported that there are two hospitalized for acute poisoning after direct contact with this hydrocarbon. “The effect on health is seen in years. There are a lot of things that Repsol is doing just to clean the face, but not the real impact,” he says.

Despite this, Terol denies that cleaning workers have been affected.

the other crisis

The truth is that the government’s response has not been adequate either. Riveros questions that in the midst of an environmental and social crisis there are no people with whom to coordinate. “The state is a disaster, except for heroic episodes of people from Serfor, Sernamp and OEFA in the field. At a high level there is no one to put a face, with whom the population can coordinate. There is supposed to be a protocol, but it is not known if it is complying because it is not public so that they can be evaluated”, the Mint.

This, he adds, has an impact on the care that the affected population is receiving. According Repsolhas reached agreements and collaboration acts with 34 groups of fishermen and merchants from Chancay, Ancón, Santa Rosa and Ventanilla, among others, comprising more than 2,400 people.

Artisanal fisherman shows sea spider bathed in crude oil, in a sad landscape that is accompanied by a strong smell of hydrocarbons.  Photo/ Jorge Cerdán / @photo.gec
Artisanal fisherman shows sea spider bathed in crude oil, in a sad landscape that is accompanied by a strong smell of hydrocarbons. Photo/ Jorge Cerdán / @photo.gec

“Although they say that, the evidence is that we see people waiting to be given work, they are not asking for money but for work. They invested for the summer, which is when they generate more income and they have lost everything, ” adds Riveros.

According to Spadaro, in Ventanilla alone, 700 families are directly affected and many more depend on the common pots, to which the artisanal fishermen used to sell cheap fish. “To this day, and despite the presence of the president, the prime minister at the time, and the environment minister, who have changed three times, an economic bonus has not been delivered as promised,” complaint.

For Alfonso Miranda, president of Calamasur, this emergency has shown that there is no government leadership to protect fishermen and the entire sector that depends on the sea from environmental disasters. Although it is still being investigated if the eruption of the Tonga volcano had something to do with it – recognized sailors who were in the area assure that there were no waves – we do live in a risk zone. Miranda puts it this way: “How many pipes? Petroleumfuel or gas are exposed to a magnitude 9 earthquake. Who guarantees that the port facilities are properly safe? He says.

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