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Colombian Government to assess criminal responsibility for Ecopetrol oil spill

03 April 2018

On April 2, Colombia’s attorney general’s office launched an investigation to determine whether officials from state-run oil company Ecopetrol could be held criminally responsible for an oil spill of 550 barrels in Santander province. The Lisama 158 well leaked crude into a ravine over a three-week period, contaminating the water and affecting animal and plant life.

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“The investigation will seek to establish if individual officials from Ecopetrol were responsible and could be penalised,” an official from the attorney general’s office told Reuters.

The country’s procurator general - which has the power to remove officials from their jobs - and the environmental licensing agency are also conducting investigations into the leak.

Ecopetrol Chief Executive Officer Felipe Bayon Pardo said the company would cooperate fully with all three investigations, and remediate the affected area.

According to Colombia Reports, the leak killed more than 2,500 animals and has polluted more than 20 miles of river. Locals have warned that the crude oil could still reach the Magdalena, Colombia’s largest river.

The Colombian environment authorities said Ecopetrol did not activate the contingency plan, nor did it execute and control the emergency according to the real magnitude of the event that occurred on March 2. They also said the company obstructed recovery procedures.

Television network Caracol claimed the company knew about serious mechanical failures at Lisama 158 since 2016, but failed to execute the necessary repairs to equipment.

According to a 2016 audit by the Comptroller General, it was one of 31 abandoned wells that posed an environmental risk due to overdue maintenance.

Ecopetrol’s CEO has denied negligence and withholding information.

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