From: Associated Press
Published December 24, 2004 12:00 AM

Mexican Authorities Working to Clean up Gulf Oil Spill


Authorities in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz worked to clean up oil and oil-soaked sand and vegetation on Friday after 5,000 barrels of crude into a river leading to the Gulf of Mexico, coating local beaches, federal officials said.

Workers scooped up blackened sand as the oil slick reached the waters of the Gulf, where a contention boom had been erected on the Coatzacoalcos River, where the spill originated.

Still, the oil slick expanded to reach 5 miles (8 kms) of Gulf coast beaches, up from 3 miles (5 kms) on Thursday, said Manuel Molina Martinez, the Veracruz representative for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Molina Martinez told the government news agency Notimex that it could take five or six days more to complete the cleanup. He said rough seas were helping break up the slick and bring it into shore.

His agency has said it could file a criminal complaint against Mexico's state-owned oil monopoly, Pemex, for the spill. The company could be fined as much as $200,000 and could face criminal charges.

The spill occurred after an early Wednesday explosion at a pumping station near Santiago Tuxtla, about 250 miles east-southeast of Mexico City. Five people were injured, including one seriously.

The blast caused a burst of high pressure that ruptured the oil line 70 miles away in Nanchital, just south of the port city of Coatzacoalcos.

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