Ecopetrol has called on public authorities to help “ensure public order” in the department of Santander, where the state-controlled oil company says that blockades and oil well damage carried out during civil demonstrations against the company have threatened the local water supply and cut its production by more than 20,000 barrels of oil per day.
As of yesterday, blockades near Eceopetrol’s La Cira Infantas oilfield had been ongoing for six days, and oil spills resulting from well damage had contaminated two waterways that feed into an aqueduct that provides water to the city of Barrancabermeja, which has a population of some 230,000, according to the company.
The environmental situation grew serious yesterday when the company’s damaged 2282 well spilled oil, which was exacerbated by the wet ground due to heavy rains the previous night. Emergency crews were also unable to attend to the situation due to blockades that existed in at least 20 different locations, said Ecopetrol in a statement.
Water shutdowns were called for, according to the company, to prevent the public from being provided with any polluted water from the El Zarzal and Ciénaga San Silvestre waterways that may have potentially gotten into the aqueduct. Ecopetrol said it expected more than 20,000 people to stop receiving water at least temporarily.
“Ecopetrol staff has not been able to enter to carry out the cleaning, containment, and decontamination work in another 12 wells … due to the blockades,” said the company in a statement. “These facts are a flagrant violation of human rights because they affect the supply of drinking water to the population.”
As a result of the disruption, Ecopetrol said that at least 617 producing wells in the La Cira Infantas oilfield were “out of commission.” The field is the largest in the Middle Magdalena region and has typically produced an average of 40,000 barrels of oil per day. This number has fallen to 17,000 barrels per day since the disruption began, according to Ecopetrol. The company said it also has been forced to halt the work of some 1,200 contracted workers.
Photo: Ecopetrol has released multiple images to the public to show that oil had gotten into multiple waterways in the department of Santander in Colombia. (Credit: Ecopetrol)