Police to investigate oil spill

THE EASTERN Slovak village of Belža was the site of a crude oil spill on October 25 when workers laying telephone cables caused a rupture in Slovakia's oil pipeline, sending a 30-metre high geyser of oil spurting briefly over a 200-metre perimeter.

Officials from Transpetrol, which operates the pipeline, estimated total damages of Sk20.5 million ($466,000) not including losses from the pipeline's stoppage.

Bratislava-based Telekom Servis had been laying optical cable for gas utility SPP along the pipeline. However, a mechanical accident led to a rupture that caused the spillage of 150 cubic metres, or close to 1,000 barrels, of oil.

Transpetrol officials said that the construction had taken place within a restricted area around the pipeline without their approval.

"Telecom Servis did not ask Transpetrol for a statement regarding construction works in the protected area of the pipeline, and [investigators] will examine if there has been a violation of the law," said Transpetrol general director Štefan Czucz.

Slovak fire and emergency personnel were joined in the cleanup by Transpetrol employees, collecting the leaked oil in 15 storage tanks and carting away contaminated soil for processing.

After service was resumed in the pipeline on October 28, governmental environment inspectors assured local inhabitants that the oil had not contaminated groundwater supplies in the area, just outside of Slovakia's second-largest city, Košice. Slovak police say they are investigating the accident.

- Dewey Smolka

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