Landslide Causes Oil Spill into Ecuador’s lower Quijos River

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While a large landslide in Ecuador has spilled crude into the popular Quijos River, it hit the river downstream of most of the best kayak and rafting runs…

According to reports, an estimated 420,000 of crude spilled after a rain-casude landslide ripped up a 100-yard stretch of the Trans-Ecuador pipeline near the Reventador volcano. Officials don’t know how much reached the Quijos.

“The oil spill was well downstream of the lodge, but lots of oil got into the Quijos, sadly,” says Darcy Gaechter, a former guide for Small World Adventures, a kayak lodge on the banks of the Quijos. “ It hit the river downstream of most of the kayaking runs on the Quijos, but it will affect two great but remote and seldom done runs.”

“It’s pretty messy,” she adds. “Peru reports that they have oil from the spill in their country now as well, via he Napo river. I imagine that if it was enough oil to make it that far, the actual site of the spill at the Quijos must be a total disaster.”

Small World Adventures, whose lodge is upstream of San Rafael Falls, confirmed that while oil did seep into the Quijos, it did not affect their lodge or paddling operations. “We did in fact find out that the oil spill did affect parts of the Quijos, but they affected areas below San Rafael Falls,” says the lodge’s Torri Stokes. “Our facility sits above these points quite a ways so the sections we usually run have not been affected by the oil spill. This is very fortunate for us.” She cites the information as coming onsite from Matt Terry, who heads the Ecuador River Institute (www.ecuadorianrivers.org).

Ecuador’s state oil company resumed pumping through the country’s main pipeline four days after it was damaged by the landslide. The spill is reported to have polluted drinking water for the regional capital of Coca far downstream. According to Associated Press, closure of the pipeline also forced PetroEcuador to accelerate three 360,000-barrel shipments bound for China.

But so far the good news for paddlers is that it didn’t affect any of the popular paddling runs of the Quijos or its tributaries, such as the Oyacachi.

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