From: Associated Press
Published September 22, 2005 12:00 AM

Peru Mayor Says Camisea Gas Pipeline Leak Contaminated Jungle Rivers, Sickening Hundreds

AYACUCHO, Peru — A district mayor threatened Wednesday to sue the operators of a pipeline that transports natural gas liquids from the Camisea gas fields in the country's southern Amazon after it sprang a leak in one of his villages.


Transportadora del Gas del Peru, or TGP, which runs the Camisea liquids pipeline, said Friday that it had evacuated about 200 people from the village of Toccate and temporarily closed a highway following the spill. But Celestino Romin, mayor of the Anco district, told The Associated Press that the damage was far more extensive.


The leak, which lasted about three hours, spread the gas liquids to the Toccate, Monterrico and Anchihuay rivers and other waterways, killing fish and sickening more than 500 people, he said.


"This gas is toxic," Romin said. "They've practically poisoned the entire river because the aquatic species have died."


He said the Chunchumayo River and the Apurimac River that it feeds into, also were affected. "The damage is enormous," he said, adding he planned to sue the company and was contemplating leading protests to disrupt its operations "to get justice."


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A call to TGP officials seeking comment went unanswered.


Romin said local officials had warned the company in April that the pipeline's design, with a roadway built over it for vehicles to transport machinery weighing several tons, would lead to gas leaks.


Peru's energy and mines minister, Glodomiro Sanchez, said Tuesday that the government was growing concerned about recent spills from the pipeline.


"It is the third time and frankly we are concerned that in slightly more than nine months there has been a third incident of this type," Sanchez told reporters.


"We believe that additional measures must be taken to avoid similar situations in the pipeline in the future," he said, suggesting that the entire pipeline system should be audited to avoid an impact on delicate ecosystems.


In late August, TGP suspended some operations in Ayacucho after another natural gas liquids spill. On Dec. 22, TGP reported a similar spill, saying some of the liquids emptied into the Urubamba River in Peru's southern jungle.


The gas pipeline, which went into operation in August 2004, runs from the jungle across the Andean plateau and up the Pacific coast desert to Lima.


The Camisea project is run by an international consortium of companies, including Argentina's Pluspetrol and Techint, Texas--based Hunt Oil, South Korea's SK Corp. and Algeria's state--controlled Sonatrach.


The project has been criticized by environmentalists who say it has harmed ecosystems and affected the health of indigenous people.


Source: Associated Press


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