Colombia’s comptroller is bringing the president of the country’s state-run oil company, Ecopetrol, and two company directors to trial over a pipeline rupture in 2011 in the northeastern department of Norte de Santander.
The incident allegedly caused $19.5 million worth of damage to the surrounding environment. According to reports, Ecopetrol’s 770 km Limon-Coveñas pipeline was left without water for three weeks.
The comptroller asserted company officials had information that could have prevented the accident. “There was information known to Ecopetrol officials involved in company finances that demonstrated the instability of the terrain and that the pipeline could collapse,” he said.
The comptroller is also charging tax liability against three Mexican contractors who Ecopetrol hired to At the provide oil containment services and work on environmental remediation. However, their services were “inefficient and ineffective to avoid the incident since they failed to contain the damage in a timely manner,” said the comptroller.
The trial is set for August 14. The comptroller has called Ecopetrol president, Javier Genaro Gutierrez, vice president of transportation Alvaro Castaneda Caro and superintendent of pipelines Ivan Gerardo Rosas Messiah.
This is not the first trouble Ecopetrol has had this year with poor pipe maintenance. In December one of the company’s pipelines in the Risaralda department, along the Venezuelan border, exploded and killed 32 people also in December 2011.
“What is clear is that the tragedy of Dosquebradas was not a result of the bad winter. What happened can be attributed to a failure in the pipeline maintenance,” said the comptroller. Ecopetrol paid 138 families around $6.4 billion in compensation fees for the accident. In the coming days, the comptroller will decide whether or not to prosecute company officials for the negligence.