Court rules Shell must spend US$35mn on Magdalena clean-up

Friday, November 22, 2002

An Argentine court has ruled that the Anglo-Dutch oil company Shell must pay some 35mn pesos (US$10mn) to clean up the coastal area near the city of Magdalena for damage caused by a 1999 oil spill, local daily Clarin reported.

The court found Shell was responsible for the spill, and also ruled that the oil giant had failed to clean up the coast after the January 1999accident in which Shell vessel Estrella Pampeana cllided with a German vessel, the Sea Parana, at the mouth of the Rio de la Plata, spilling 5,399 cubic meters of light crude.

Shell's clean-up crews recovered some 1,500 cubic meters of the spilt oil and then called off the clean-up operation after 30 days.

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Shell denies responsibility for the collision and the spill, but still "immediately carried out thorough cleaning activities, as recommended by national and international experts on the matter," the company said in a statement.

Shell will call for the ruling to be overturned because "analysis made over the last three years demonstrate that the shores of Magdalena have recovered," the statement said.

Following the initial clean up a Shell statement said the beaches were clean and the affected area was minimized, and the area would complete a gradual recovery on its own.

However, the spilt oil remains an environmental hazard according to the state environmental authority, the Secretaria de Politica Ambiental (SPA).

"The presence of hydrocarbons in the water is a health risk to humans either through direct contact or accidental ingestion during recreational activities such as swimming, fishing and other nautical activities," SPA said in a statement.

The court will fine Shell 100,000 pesos (US$28,000) for each day it falls behind in the clean-up operation, the paper reported.