OSORNO – For nearly a week, families in the city of Osorno are without drinking water after over 1,000 liters of fuel leaked into a water supply. A sanitarian alert was issued, shops ran out of bottled drinking water and classes were suspended. Water company Essal aims to have the drinking water restored this week, but can expect a huge fine, according to authorities.
On Thursday, over 1,000 liters of oil leaked in a water supply near the Caipulli plant in Osorno, that provides drinking water to 49,000 families in the area – or 180,000 people. Drinking water in the area was immediately cut off after the leak was detected. Shops and supermarkets in the city quickly ran out of bottled water and after the size of the environmental disaster and the health risks became known, a sanitarian alert was issued.
Si vives en Osorno, conoce los puntos de abastecimiento de emergencia de agua potable disponibles en este momento. ¡Ayúdanos a difundir esta información! ⚠️ https://t.co/pfEjalZaKp pic.twitter.com/9CL0dguK8m
— Gobierno de Chile (@GobiernodeChile) July 15, 2019
Essal, the water company responsible, has been blamed ever since by both authorities and citizens. The company has apologized and expressed hopes that Wednesday all drinking water in the city be restored. Until then, classes are suspended, and the Ministry of Labor has called upon companies to only ask employees to come in if the sanitary conditions in their establishments are adequate.
The long-term damage on the environment remains to be seen but is expected to be heavy. On Saturday, Essal admitted that part of the leaked oil ended up in the Rahue River, causing possible harm to surrounding flora, fauna and agriculture.
🗣️ Shops ran quickly out of bottled water after the water was cut off.
The Consequences for Essal
For water company Essal, the consequences for the water leak that caused a crisis in the city are expected to be severe. The National Superintendent of Sanitary Services Jorge Rivas told Biobio.cl that they are looking to fine the company with the maximum penalty. This would mean a fine up to CLP$ 600 million pesos (USD$880,000 dollar).
The National Consumer Service has demanded a compensation for the affected Osorno citizens. The service demands at least 40 days of free drinking water for the citizens once the damage is cleared – a number that can fall out higher if it takes Essal longer than the estimated Wednesday to give Osorno its drinking water back.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and works with international media during major events, like the social crisis, the elections and the Pope’s visit.