General — 05 July 2017 — by Adele Ramos
Crude oil spill in bordering Guatemala could threaten the Sarstoon

SARSTOON RIVER, Toledo District, Mon. July 3, 2017–An oil spill in the vicinity of the Sarstoon River in southern Belize has sparked outcry from the Guatemalan environmental agency, Centro de Acción Legal Ambiental y Social (CALAS), which has called for immediate action to mitigate the devastation caused by the spillage of an estimated 4,000 gallons of crude petroleum into the adjacent Gracias a Dios River, in the village of El Arenal, Livingston, Izabal, Guatemala.

Most news sources are not naming the responsible company but Centro de Medios Independentes has identified the company which owns the crude oil as Empresa Petrolera del Itsmo, and the company which was transferring the crude on its behalf as Grupo Fama.

The spill reportedly occurred on Saturday, July 1, when the driver of the tanker is said to have lost control of the vehicle while driving on a curve. Reports in the Guatemalan press indicate that the company did not try to mitigate the impact of the spill, resulting in nearly half of the crude (estimated at a total of 8,200 gallons) spilling into the waterways, posing an imminent threat to three rivers: Gracias a Dios, Chocón and the Sarstoon – the river which marks the southern border of Belize with Guatemala. The spill occurred south of the western flank of the Sarstoon River.

According to reports in the Guatemalan press, environmental authorities there say that the clean-up will take about 15 days. They have already begun the efforts, and the tanker was reportedly being hauled out of the ravine into which it crashed earlier today.

Meanwhile, the matter remains under investigation and there are no reports of sanctions against the driver or the companies for which he was hauling the crude oil.

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