A new spill has been reported at the Pemex oil refinery in Salina Cruz, Oaxaca, causing further environmental damage to nearby waterways and a popular beach.
A large fire broke out at the Antonio Dovalí Jaime refinery on June 14 after an explosion in an area where 500,000 liters of crude oil were stored. Rain that accompanied tropical storm Calvin had flooded the site the previous day.
One firefighter died fighting the blaze and nine more were injured in the incident that forced thousands of nearby residents to be evacuated from their homes.
Oil also spilled into a nearby lagoon.
Now another spill has exceeded containment barriers and again flowed into nearby waterways, raising further concerns among local residents about environmental damage.
While a specialized team from Pemex began work to prevent the spill from spreading, protestors interrupted their work to demand they be contracted by the company to contribute to the clean-up effort.
Pemex has not yet issued any information about the latest incident at the refinery, which has remained closed since the initial inundation and subsequent fire and was not expected to reopen until July 30.
There are also reports of contamination caused by black rain from the June 14 fire at Playa Brasil, some 20 kilometers from the refinery.
The environmental damage has brought both fishing and tourist activity at the beach to a halt.
“The contamination has put us in a very difficult situation because we depend on tourism and fishing. If there isn’t any, then what can we do with our lives?” said local government representative Francisco Martínez Hernández.
He also said that neither government officials nor representatives of Pemex had visited the beach to assess the damage or offer a solution.
Martínez said that legal action against the state-owned petroleum company is also a possibility.
“That’s what we have thought about, suing Pemex . . . so they take responsibility and pay for the damage because we live from tourism and fishing.”
Contamination extends to other nearby fishing areas, ruling out any possibility that fishermen can move their operations.
“Who is going to want to buy a trevally, red snapper or skipjack contaminated with oil,” Martínez asked.
According to a local fisherman sea turtles have also been found dead, washed up onto the beach and allegedly victims of the recent spills and black rain.
Before the refinery can reopen a thorough clean-up and general maintenance of the site is required, although a dispute over who would be in charge of the process hampered initial efforts.
The Oaxaca refinery is one of the country’s most important with a daily output of 330,000 barrels of petroleum products.