Communities in the Peruvian Amazon are facing a new environmental disaster as a 40-year-old pipeline operated by state oil company Petroperu has experienced a major oil spoll for the fourth time this year.
Petroperu confirmed the leak in a statement late Wednesday, indicating that emergency crews were responding to the incident. The company did not indicate the extent of the spill or offer an estimate of the amount of oil that has seeped out in the leak.
The company reported that the 93-mile (150 km) long Nieva River has not been impacted by the leak and that Petroperu is taking steps to protect the area’s water sources. It claimed that the response is “advancing rapidly” to contain the spill and remediate the area.
The spill happened in the northern Condorcanqui province in the Amazonas Region of Peru. The 687-mile pipeline already dumped 3,000 barrels of oil in two separate spill in January and February that contaminated local rivers and outraged affected Indigenous communities.
The spills prompted the government to declare a state of emergency in the area. Local Indigenous communities held eight oil officials hostage to protest the destruction and demand financial compensation from the company for the damage.
The leaks also paved the way for controversy when a third leak hit at the end of June, as the company had claimed in a report that it had suspended operations in the troubled pipeline. But the Environmental Assessment and Control Agency proved it was a lie, Peru21 reported. The third leak spilled some 600 barrels of crude, affecting 400 people in the area. The head of Petroperu, German Velasquez, was forced to resign.
Minister of Energy and Mines under the newly-inaugurated President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Gonzalo Tamayo, said after the latest spill that the pipeline should remain closed for at least one year to address the issues.
The details around the latest spill, including how much crude has leaked and how it happened, remain unclear.
The spill will likely provide fodder for activists to pressure the new neoliberal Kuczynski government to impose stricter regulations on the industry.
According to Peru’s ombudsman office, the country has seen 23 pipeline bursts in the last five years in its relatively small oil industry.
WATCH: Oil Spills in Peru