(Recasts, updates with details of oil spill; adds byline, changes dateline, previously QUITO)
SANTA ROSA, Ecuador, Feb 26 (Reuters) - A rupture in Ecuador’s second largest oil pipeline has polluted the Santa Rosa river in the lush Amazon jungle and shut off the flow of crude to a Pacific port in the city of Esmeraldas.
A spokesman for the firm running the pipeline said on Thursday the pipeline will be restarted in five days. Meanwhile, dozens of white-suited workers shoveled crude out of the river.
The OCP pipeline, which pumps around 130,000 barrels of heavy crude per day, ruptured late on Wednesday. Export commitments will be covered until repairs are finished, a line spokesman said. The rupture was the first of the privately run line since it started operations in 2003.
Repeated oil spills by foreign companies and the country’s state oil company, Petroecuador, are a threat to rare species of jaguars and river dolphins in the Amazon jungle, where most of the Andean country’s oil operations are located.
Local resident Margarita Aigaje has no more clear water to drink or shower with after more than 14,000 barrels of crude polluted the river in front of her hut in one of the biggest Ecuador oil spills in years.
“I don’t know if this river will ever be clean again,” said Aigaje, 39, as she skinned a pig only a few yards from the oil-tainted river. “We are trying to collect rainwater because we can’t drink from the river anymore.”
Overlooking dark pools used to recover spilled oil, OCP line spokesman Eugenio Naranjo said the leak was contained and clean up crews worked around the clock to prevent further contamination.
Ecuador’s largest pipeline, the state-run 360,000-bpd SOTE pipeline, was operating normally on Thursday, an oil company official told Reuters. The SOTE pipeline runs alongside the OCP line in some areas.
Last year, the SOTE line broke near Santa Rosa after a mudslide, spilling 4,000 barrels of crude into a nearby swamp. In one of the biggest oil spills in mainland Ecuador, 22,000 barrels of crude leaked from the SOTE line and contaminated a lake nestled in the Andes mountains in 2003.
The decaying SOTE line travels in some parts exposed, alongside the mudslide-prone roads leading to the countrys Amazon provinces. The reddish pipeline is often used for electoral graffiti, featuring the names of candidates for local mayoral seats.
The OCP pipeline carries crude from fields deep in the Amazon to a Pacific coast port. (Reporting by Alonso Soto; Editing by Christian Wiessner)
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