Colombia's National Agency of Environmental Licenses (ANLA) is launching an investigation into the devastating March 2 oil spill which sent toxic waste 15 kilometers downstream in Barrancabermeja, it has been reported.
Toxic waste flowed dangerously close to the Sogamoso River after about 22 barrels of oil spilled into the Lizama stream outside the village of La Fortuna. prompting the involvement of federal authorities.
The probe will be launched in the department of Santander, Environmental Minister Luis Gilberto Murillo said Wednesday: "The investigations will obviously tell us what happened and if we find an Ecopetrol error there will be a sanction."
Ecopetrol has joined the clean-up initiative, constructing 13 control points and 56 barriers along two separate ravines, as well as containment dikes. Ecopetrol President Felipe Bayon said the firm believes the nation's March 1 earthquakes could be responsible for the spill.
So far, 48 families have been forced to relocate; 49 local species have been evacuated to safety, and 300 fishermen's livelihoods have been destroyed.
Additionally, 30 local farms are scrambling to care for livestock without access to fresh water. Peasants and displaced families protested Wednesday, setting up roadblocks along the highway connecting Barrancabermeja and Bucaramanga to demand that authorities address the emergency.
To date, 50 mechanical barriers have been erected and 20 teams of experts have monitored the spill while the oil continues to spread outward to neighboring communities.
Other nearby bodies of water – such as the Quebrada Lisama, Caño Muerte, Rio Sogamoso and Rio Magdalena – will continue to be monitored for sediment, soil, air and surface water quality.