Oil Spill in Rio's Guanabara Bay

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, January 20, 2000 (ENS) - Rio de Janeiro state environment officials say it could take five to 10 years to restore Rio de Janeiro's Guanabara Bay after a huge oil spill Tuesday by state oil company Petrobras at its Duque de Caxias refinery (Reduc). Petrobras said the cleanup would take at least 30 days.

The city of Rio de Janeiro is located near the entrance to Guanabara Bay. So far, the spill has been kept in Guanabara Bay and has not touched Rio's famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches.

bay

Waters of Guanabara Bay (Photo courtesy State of Rio de Janeiro)
The company says 500,000 liters (3,145 barrels) of oil were spilled. Environmentalists claim the amount of the spill was closer to one million liters (6,289 barrels).

The spill occurred when an aging pipeline from the Duque de Caxias refinery located in Rio De Janeiro developed a leak near the coast.

The spill has already covered 40 square kilometers (12 square miles) according to the state's environment authorities.

This is Petrobras's second largest Guanabara Bay spill and its fifth spill in four years. Petrobras has been fined approximately US$52,000 over the incident.

The leak was caused because Petrobras' pipelines are old and poorly maintained, state environmental officials said.

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Petrobras' Duque de Caxias refinery (Photo courtesy Petrobras)
Reduc never had an environment license, according to Rio de Janeiro state's environment secretary, adding that a full environmental audit of the refinery will be conducted.

But Petrobras claims on its website that the company "employs state-of-the-art technology and abides by strict standards of quality, thus ensuring that its business also takes place safely and with proper regard for the surrounding environment."

"It is Rio de Janeiro's worst ecological disaster in 10 years," Carlos Minc, president of the state legislature's Environmental Affairs Committee told the "Jornal do Brasil" newspaper.