Maracaibo oil spill makes news

Updated!

I’m not sure why it’s in the news today rather than any other day, as the oiliness of South America’s second-largest lake is pretty much a permanent feature. But better late than never.

Update: The state-run Bolivarian News Agency, quoting a statement from PDVSA’s western exploration and production unit, says the spill is not the result of PDVSA operations. Glad that’s cleared up.(end update, thanks DC)

Here are a few pictures I took at the lake a couple years ago. Click images for bigger versions, and if you’re still not happy, click again for full size.

Full text of story from Panorama, just in case they pull it off the web, after the jump

From Panorama:
Fiscalía abrirá una investigación por mancha en el Lago

Texto: M. Bermúdez / K. Vílchez / Y. Rojas

Representantes del Inea iniciaron las labores de recolección del material en las riberas de El Bajo. La AN llevará el caso a plenaria.

Una mancha aceitosa en las costas del Lago de Maracaibo encendió la alarma de los pobladores costeros desde el pasado miércoles. El rastro se observa en las inmediaciones de la Vereda del Lago de Maracaibo, en las cercanías del Puente General Rafael Urdaneta, y en el sector El Bajo, del municipio San Francisco.

Una comisión del Instituto para la Conservación del Lago de Maracaibo (Iclam), investiga desde la noche del miércoles la mancha, indicó Jorge Pedroza, titular del organismo.

“Se designó una comisión integrada por personas del Iclam, Pdvsa, el Ministerio de Ambiente y el Inea, para determinar la procedencia de esta mancha”, detalló Pedroza.

Los primeros reportes de la mancha se produjeron cerca del Destacamento 903 de la Guardia Costera, en la cabecera del Puente sobre el Lago. La inspección se está realizando desde La Cañada de Urdaneta, hasta la zona de Capitán Chico, cerca de Santa Rosa de Agua, para determinar el origen.

“El miércoles, a las 10:00 de la mañana, un piloto maniobrando nos reportó la aparición de la mancha y desde ese momento se activó la comisión regional contra derrames”, informó el capitán del Inea, Miguel Figueroa.

Versiones preliminares indican que puede tratarse de lastre de alguna embarcación, no obstante, Elio Ríos, miembro de la organización ambientalista Naturazul, indicó que han recibido denuncias recientes sobre derrames de crudo hacia la Costa Oriental del Lago (COL).

Otra de las versiones sugiere la posible ruptura de una tubería de petróleo. “Que la mancha proviene de Falcón no creemos, pero estamos indagando en el Sur del Lago, pues desde allí viene navegando. Además, la mancha viene acompañada con restos de ríos”, precisó el capitán Miguel Figueroa.

La semana pasada otro derrame afectó las costas de Paraguaná, en Falcón, específicamente en la costa de Amuaycito, donde varias cuadrillas fueron dispuestas para recoger los restos de petróleo liviano y hasta el miércoles habían logrado un 85%.

En el Lago, las labores de recolección comenzó en Bajo Grande.

La Fiscalía Ambiental 40 con competencia nacional, en conjunto con Guardería Ambiental de la Guardia Nacional, iniciarán un proceso de investigación, indicaron fuentes del Ministerio Público.

Los pescadores del municipio sureño están preocupados por la llegada del material aceitoso, pues las redes se impregnan y tienen que ser lavadas continuamente con gasolina. “Eso nos trae consecuencias porque los telares de las redes se pudren con el combustible y las manos se nos pelan”, señaló Luis Morán, pescador desde hace 30 años.

“Las lanchas tenemos que lavarlas cada vez que tocamos tierra, porque la madera queda completamente llena”, dijo Manuel Romero.

En la Costa Oriental del Lago, en lo que va de mes, este tipo de manchas se aprecian en las orillas de las playas, principalmente hacia el centro y sur, afectando la producción artesanal de los pescadores y, según voceros de ese sector, dejándolos sin posibilidades de captar especies en el estuario.

“Se pierde el pescado, porque al llegar a la orilla con las cajas de camarones, éstos están llenos de petróleo e impregnados con un fuerte olor. Ya casi no trabajamos, de 15 lanchas que teníamos operativas, ahora sólo usamos tres”, detalló Yelitza de Cardozo, integrante de la Asociación de Pescadores de Santa Rita.

El diputado de la comisión de ambiente de la Asamblea Nacional (AN), Earle Herrera, comentó: “Nosotros no hemos recibido denuncias, pero en la próxima plenaria que haremos (miércoles) tocaremos el tema y se designará una comisión que viaje al Zulia y realice una inspección en el sitio”.

5 thoughts on “Maracaibo oil spill makes news

  1. Steve

    When I lived there, 20+ years ago, I once went to see a PDVSA manager (Maraven at the time). He apologized but he had to leave early; there was a spill somewhere and the company was catching flak from the press, the governor, and the Ministro de Ambiente.

    He explained that it was probably coming from the “spaghetti” of pipelines that cover parts of the lake bottom, but that it also might be one of the multiple natural seepages from the southern part of the lake.

  2. Kepler

    Great post, Setty.

    The biggest problem is definitely that most Venezuelans are environmental pigs. We are not the only ones and perhaps we just do it in more obvious ways than others, even if some others turn out to leave an even greater polluting impact.
    In any case, there is a lot of room for urgent improvement.

    My brother was telling me the other day about a conversation he had with some colleagues. He mentioned the huge litter problem on the roads but he said it on purpose because he had observed several of his colleagues throwing litter themselves when they were going together to some projects. They all kept nodding: “sí, sí, es una vergüenza que la gente haga eso”. My brother said: I wished I had taken pictures to show them and ask: carajo, and why were you then throwing that rubbish last week and the week before and before?

    About the natural seepages: I don’t know anything about oil other than the little we would learn at high school in pre-Chávez Venezuela. I know oil was pouring out of the ground in several places and was used by the native Americans for caulking their canoes and keeping up fires when Europeans arrived.

    Perhaps the following text is interesting for you. Humboldt, 1800, last days in Venezuela, around the Cariaco area:
    “We sailed on the 4th of November, at one o’clock in the morning, in search of the mine of native alum. I took with me the chronometer and my large Dollond telescope, intending to observe at the Laguna Chica (Small Lake), east of the village of Maniquarez, the immersion of the first satellite of Jupiter; this design, however, was not accomplished, contrary winds having prevented our arrival before daylight. The spectacle of the phosphorescence of the ocean and the sports of the porpoises which surrounded our canoe somewhat atoned for this disappointment. We again passed those spots where springs of petroleum gush from mica-slate at the bottom of the sea and the smell of which is perceptible from a considerable distance. When it is recollected that farther eastward, near Cariaco, the hot and submarine waters are sufficiently abundant to change the temperature of the gulf at its surface, we cannot doubt that the petroleum is the effect of distillation at an immense depth, issuing from those primitive rocks beneath which lies the focus of all volcanic commotion.”

    Still, my hunch is by far most of that oil around the lake is man-made and it is getting worse and worse.

  3. GB

    PDVSA is probably being more transparent on these spills for propaganda purposes only, in light what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico.

  4. sapitosetty Post author

    Steve – thanks for the correction, I fixed the captions. I think you’re right.

    Kepler – natural seepages continue to flow, but the pressure has probably diminished a lot since Humboldt’s day. Speaking of Humboldt, he also saw a cave near Cumaná that had been on fire for three years, following an earthquake. It sounds to me like the quake fractured out coal-bed methane which got lit by lightning or someone sparking up a smoke in the wrong place. His diaries are amazing.

    GB – I’ll leave speculation as to PDVSA’s motives to others, but in fairness I think it’s useful to say that there are those in the company who recognize that when they aren’t transparent, it lets rumors gain force and hurts the company’s reputation. The motives for the current burst of transparency could be either bad or good, but I’ll take it.

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