Venezuela oil spills caused grave environmental damage over two years -report

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A concentration of crude oil is washed ashore following a crude spill in September from a pipeline that connects production areas with state-run PDVSA's largest refinery, the Paraguana Refining Center (CRP), in Punta Cardon, Venezuela October 1, 2021. REUTERS/Leonardo Fernandez Viloria

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CARACAS, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Constant oil spills in Venezuela between 2020 and 2021 have caused grave damage to the environment, the country's science academy said on Wednesday, which also called on state oil company PDVSA (PDVSA.UL) to comply with clean-up operations.

At least nine spills have occurred in the two years, the Venezuelan Academy of Physical, Mathematical and Natural Sciences said in a report, including 26,730 barrels of oil in July last year, which polluted Morrocoy national park located on Venezuela's northwest coast.

"Along the coast, hydrocarbon spills and the discharge of waste by the oil industry happen with greater frequency every day," the report said, adding that such incidents affect the environment and can kill life found on the sea floor.

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A copy of the report was handed to PDVSA and the country's oil minister, the Academy said. Neither PDVSA nor the oil minister responded to Reuters request for comment.

Spills of refined products - such as gasoline - are more toxic than oil spills, the investigators said, adding that mitigating or reducing such incidents was the responsibility of the oil industry.

Barriers and other measures to contain spills were used in just a few cases, the Academy said, while beaches were cleaned manually and without machinery.

"The contingency plan established by PDVSA in 1986, which promotes using vessels for deploying of containment barriers and employing skimmers to collect spilled hydrocarbon, among other actions, hasn't been efficiently applied in the last 20 years," the report said.

The spills have also affected mangroves and sectors of the coast surrounding Lake Maracaibo, which is located in Venezuela's Zulia state and is full of oil wells, as well as nearby islands and archipelagos. read more

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Reporting by Deisy Buitrago Writing by Oliver Griffin Editing by Marguerita Choy

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