By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Brazil’s Federal Police will investigate claims made by State Environment Secretary Carlos Minc, who has accused oil company Chevron of implementing an illegal sandblasting technique to deal with the slick caused by a recent leak in deep-water oil fields off the Rio de Janeiro coastline.

Aerial pictures show the oil slick off the Rio de Janeiro state coastline, Brazil News.
Aerial pictures show the oil slick 230 miles off the Rio coastline; officials says nearly 110,000 gallons of oil may have leaked into the Atlantic, image recreation.

He also said that the company would have to stop production while the clean-up process was completed.

If the accusations are proven, the U.S. oil giant could face environment crimes charges, which could lead to the company being banned from bidding for contracts for the vast “pre-salt” reserves, and even prison sentences of up to four years, Brazilian media reports.

Chevron has denied the claims, telling Globo News that they “have not used sand or dispersants”, instead implementing containment barriers, skimming and washing techniques to tackle the slick.

Another police investigation is already underway into the causes of the incident.

The sandblasting technique can seriously affect marine life as, when mixed with the sand, the oil drops to the seafloor.

Chevron president George Buck has assumed responsibility for the accident, blaming the leak on a “miscalculation in the pressure of the oil reservoir”.

Chevron is said to have been alerted to the spill by Brazil’s state-run Petrobras oil company, which operates a nearby well.

Read more (in Portuguese).

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