RIO DE JANEIRO Ã¢â‚¬â€ An unidentified oil tanker is suspected to be responsible for a petroleum slick sullying beaches north of Rio de Janeiro, where several dead penguins were also found, Brazilian maritime officials said Tuesday.
“The oil is very diluted and has spread to almost all the beaches in the region,” the head of Rio’s ports authority, Walter Bombada, told the newspaper O Globo.
“But it doesn’t seem to be an accident of huge proportions…. It seems to come from an oil tanker cleaning out its reservoir,” he said.
The slick was found along the coast 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Rio de Janeiro city, in a pristine beach area known as the Lakes District.
Around 20 penguins were found dead on the beaches.
Brazil’s state-run Petrobras oil company said in a statement it would help to clean the beaches. It also said it was analyzing the oil, but said an aerial pass out at sea failed to locate a tell-tale slick which could have pointed the way to the offending vessel.
Brazil’s navy was asking 320 ships which passed by off the area over the past four days to supply samples of the oil they had on board.
If a ship is identified as being the culprit, its owners face a pollution fine of up to 25 million dollars.