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Oil Spill in Ecuador Pollutes Drinking Water in Peru, Threatens Brazil

Jun 10, 2013 04:57 PM EDT

Damage to Ecuador's main oil pipeline as the result of a landslide resulted in crude oil spilling out of the pipe and making its way into rivers downstream in Peru and placing neighboring Brazil "on alert."

The accident on May 31 caused the Trans-Ecuador pipeline, operated by Petroecuador, to briefly shut down for repairs, but not before an estimated 11,480 barrels of oil leaked into the Quijos River before flowing into the Coca River, a tributary of the Amazon River that also flows downstream toward Peru and Brazil.

The oil spill has already reached the Loreto region of the Amazon in Peru, the BBC reported Sunday.

In a statement to the BBC, Brazil's foreign ministry said Brazil would offer assistance to both Ecuador and Peru and that the country's environmental protections agencies are "on alert."

In Ecuador, the oil slick reportedly polluted drinking water in the city of Coca, an urban area with a population of 80,000. Coca's mayor Ana Rivas said the oil spill "has left us without water because the river we take potable water from is contaminated. The people are indignant because there is no water to drink," the Huffington Post reported.

Ecuador's president Rafael Correa apologized to Peru for the "problems we have caused," according to BBC.

Petroecuador reportedly distributed bottled water to the Coca city as compensation.

Manuel Pulgar Vidal, Peru's environment minister, called the oil spill a "very serious problem" and indicated that Peru could seek compensation from Ecuador or the state-run Petroecuador, BBC reported.

"If there is a serious level of affected areas, international law always gives you the possibility to establish a compensation issue.

"But... first we have to look at the extent of the problem," he reportedly told Peru's Canal N television.

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