Pipeline Break in Peru

Five hundred indigenous middle- and high-school students will arrive in early March at a Catholic-run boarding school in Wachapea, an Awajun village in Peru, but the sisters and staff do not know where they will take baths. The Chiriaco River, where the students usually bathe, play and wash their clothes, turned black on Feb. 10 as oil from a broken pipeline upriver washed downstream during a heavy rain. Although the slick is gone, a tarry residue remains on the soil and plants along the riverbank. “We need information about what lies ahead, about the health precautions we should take, about how long it will be before people can fish again,” said Sister Carmen Gomez, a member of Servants of St. Joseph mission that operates the school. The pipeline break was one of three that occurred in northern Peru between late January and mid-February, bringing to 20 the number of oil spills from the pipeline since 2011, according to Peru’s environmental oversight agency.

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