MARACAY, Venezuela, Oct 31 (Reuters) - A slop tank at Venezuela's massive Amuay refinery overflowed this week and products have spilled, polluting the nearby bay and staining tankers, according to a union leader and two refinery workers.
Heavy rains on Monday and Tuesday in the Paraguana peninsula, as well as a lack of maintenance, led to the spill, union leader and government critic Ivan Freites told Reuters.
He said it was hard to quantify the size of the spill, but that it was significant and could be around 200,000 barrels of products, including gasoline and gasoil.
Two workers at the 645,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery, which is owned by state oil company PDVSA, confirmed the incident, asking to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to discuss it.
"The FORS 1 (slop tank) overflowed and there are stained tankers, it's bothered several captains," one of the workers said. A slop tank
PDVSA and the Oil Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Critics of leftist President Nicolas Maduro's administration say lack of investments and lax environmental safeguards have led to an increase in polluting oil spills in the oil-rich Maracaibo Lake and along Venezuela's Caribbean coast.
Maduro's government says a right-wing business elite is out to smear PDVSA and insists the company upholds strict environmental norms.
The Paraguana Refining Center, home to the Amuay and Cardon refineries in Venezuela's north-west, has repeatedly reduced output in recent months, contributing to intermittent fuel shortages in the South American OPEC nation.
The center is down to operating at about a third of its 955,000-barrel-per-day capacity, according to Freites and documents from PDVSA earlier this month. (Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; editing by Susan Thomas)