SANTIAGO – The chairman of the Chilean Senate’s environment committee filed a criminal complaint Monday against the person or persons responsible for spilling 40,000 liters (10,567 gal.) of diesel fuel into the Strait of Magellan near Isla Guarello.
“The situation is a natural disaster of major dimensions,” Sen. Guido Girardi, who represents the Magellanes region, said at the courthouse in Santiago, adding that local authorities “are overwhelmed.”
Maritime officials say the spill occurred as the fuel was being transferred from a tanker to a plant on Isla Guerrero operated by steelmaker CAP.
The Chilean navy said that it has recovered roughly 15,000 liters of the spilled diesel.
The accident was not caused by the negligence of an individual manager, but rather by a lack of planning and precautions on the part of CAP, Girardi told reporters.
He then cited a recent incident that saw roughly 200,000 people in the city of Osorno go without running water for a week after a fuel spill at a facility belonging to Essal, a private company that provides water and sewer service in the Los Lagos region.
While the senator was highlighting pollution in Chile’s far south, officials declared an “environmental emergency” Monday in Quinteros, a town in the coastal region of Valparaiso, west of Santiago, after measuring devices detected a dangerously high level of sulfur dioxide particulates in the air.
Over the last five decades, Quintero and neighboring Puchuncavi have experience several instances of mass poisoning connected with local industries.
The area, home to a large industrial park with 17 manufacturing and processing plants, has been described by Greenpeace as the “Chilean Chernobyl.”