Brazilian Oil Company Spills MTBE

Aug. 4, 2000

A pipeline leak caused Brazilian government-owned oil company Petrobras to spill 270 gallons of toxic methyl tertiary butyl ether (MEBE) near Rio de Janeiro, just two weeks after Brazil's largest oil spill in 25 years.

After residents in the town of Paracambi, about 44 miles northwest of Rio, began complaining of nausea and a strong chemical smell, Petrobras officials were alerted and shut down the pipeline that runs between Volta Redonda, 84 miles northwest of Rio, and Japeri, near Paracambi. The company discovered a hole in the pipe afterward.

Petrobras officials said chances of the leak contaminating ground water was "minimal." The local population, which gets its water from a reservoir, is not thought to be at risk from contamination. Rio de Janeiro's state environmental secretariat said it will fine Petrobras up to $560,000 depending on the extent of damage.

In July, a ruptured pipe at the Getulio Vargas oil refinery in Araucaria caused four million liters of crude oil to spill into a tributary of the Iguacu River. The Parana State Environmental Protection Agency fined Petrobras $28 million for the incident.

In January, 340,000 gallons of crude oil leaked into protected mangrove swamps in Guanabara Bay after an underwater oil pipe at Petrobras' Reduc refinery near Rio De Janeiro broke. The area is expected to take at least a decade to recover.

Petrobras said it would remove and treat the contaminated soil around the spill in Paracambi and replace it with new soil.

(Source: Environment News Service)

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