Coca Cola, AES Fined for Water Pollution in Panama
Associated Press
May 9, 2003

PANAMA CITY: Environmental authorities on Thursday levied hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines against Coca-Cola de Panama and AES after determining that accidents at factories the companies control outside the country's capital polluted the waters of the nearby Bay of Panama.

The National Environmental Authority fined Coca Cola de Panama $300,000 for spilling 400 gallons of red dye it uses to produce fruit drinks into the Matasnillo River last week. The river flowed into the bay, turning more than half of it a red-pink colour.

The company acknowledged responsibility for the spill, which terrified the local population and even prompted authorities in neighbouring Costa Rica to call their Panamanian counterparts and demand an explanation.

The accident had no lasting effects on plant or animal life in the bay, however, said Bolivar Perez, an environmental engineer.

Environmental authorities imposed a $250,000 fine on AES after a series of valves failed at the company's hydroelectric plant outside Panama City, dumping 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel into the nearby Bay of Panama late last month.

Since the accident, local AES officials say they have successfully cleaned up 90 per cent of the affected areas and were continuing to investigate the accident's cause.

In a report, environmental authorities concluded that the accident was caused by "negligence and a lack of operative controls." They also said the spill had a "major impact" on the bay's ecosystem.

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