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By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – An oil leak in Petrobras’ Terminal Marítimo Almirante Barroso (Tebar) has polluted the region around São Sebastião, on the northern coast of São Paulo on Friday night. During the weekend the oil reached the popular tourism region of Caraguatatuba, covering a stretch of about 15 to 20 km along the coast and contaminating eleven beaches.

300 people were sent out to clean the shores and the sea, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Three hundred people were sent out to clean the shores and the sea, photo by Capitania dos Portos/Divulgação.

According to the Companhia Ambiental do Estado de São Paulo (Cetesb, Environmental Agency of São Paulo state) the accident occurred while refueling a vessel at the pier during which a valve malfunctioned. Exame stated on Tuesday that the amount of oil leaked corresponded to 22 barrels, each of which has a capacity of 160 liters.

“The oil that leaked was MS 320, which serves as a fuel to feed ship boilers. It is very light crude oil, which makes its containment even more difficult,” says Eduardo Hipólito, the municipal secretary for environment in São Sebastião.

Petrobras started to clean the beaches immediately after the accident, sending three hundred people and 27 ships out on Saturday. Barriers were put into place to inhibit the expansion of the oil.

“It is a very serious environmental accident, several ecosystems have been affected. You will see a ripple effect in the environment, so it is very severe,” Mr Hipólito explained. He classified this accident as the “worst in the last ten years”.

Petrobras already received fines of R$10 million on Monday from Cetesb and R$50 million from the prefecture of São Sebastião, their maximum fine, and might continue to face further charges from the state.

The Tebar terminal, where the accident happened, handles 55 percent of all oil used in Brazil. Last year the leaks from Petrobras increased by 65 percent, spilling a total of 387 liters of oil, even though Petrobras launched the goal of Vazamento Zero (Zero Leak).

Just last December, Brazilian court overturned the ban that prevented Chevron from operating in Brazil, which was in place for a November 2011 oil leak 370km northeast of Rio de Janeiro. Brazilian officials estimate that leak was roughly 3,600 barrels of oil.

Read more (in Portuguese).

* The Rio Times Daily Updates feature is offered to help keep you up-to-date with important news as it happens.

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