A Ruptured Pipe Spilled Oil Upstream of the Amazon River

A burst pipeline in Ecuador spilled 10,000 barrels of oil into a tributary of the Amazon River

Rainforest Action Network
Not from the current spill, the Rainforest Action Network shows what they say is lasting damage from Ecuador’s long history of damage from oil production. Caroline Bennett / Rainforest Action Network

Ten thousand barrels of oil are now making their way down Ecuador’s Coca River—a waterway that eventually feeds into the Amazon River—after a pipe run by the state-owned Petroecuador burst during a landslide, says Reuters. The pipe is the country’s largest, and it usually carries around 309 thousand barrels of oil per day. On Monday, says Agence France-Presse, the burst pipe left at least 60,000 people without access to fresh water when well pumps in nearby Puerto Francisco de Orellana were shut off.

The Ecuadorian government says that equipment is in place to control the oil spill. The pipeline is now repaired and back online, but some of the already-spilled oil is now making its way downstream. Some of it could make it into the Napo River, a tributary of the Amazon, eventually making its way to Brazil and Peru.

The pipeline, known as SOTE, broke during a landslide on Friday. This isn’t Ecuador’s first run-in with broken pipelines or spilled oil. Back in April, Ecuador’s second-largest pipeline, known as OCP, burst, spilling 5,500 barrels of oil.

The present spills were attributed to the state-owned Petroecuador, but the history of damage from oil production in the country stretches further back. There has been a long-running lawsuit between Ecuadorian plaintiffs and the oil producer Chevron, the owner of Texaco, a company accused of polluting the Ecuadorian rainforest. That lawsuit has been going back-and-forth for decades, with the plaintiffs seeking $19 billion in damages.

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