Concern Mounts Over Spreading Oil Slick in Australia

by Gopalan on  March 13, 2009 at 11:57 AM Environmental Health
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 Concern Mounts Over Spreading Oil Slick in Australia
A 60 km stretch of Australian coastline, in the northeastern state of Queensland is being choked by oil, as a massive spill spreads.

A Hong Kong-registered ship Pacific Adventurer began leaking after it was damaged in rough seas this week.

The ship that spilt 31 containers of ammonium nitrate into Moreton Bay in the wake of Cyclone Hamish also leaked heavy fuel oil.

The ship was travelling from Newcastle to Brisbane in rough seas near Point Lookout at Stradbroke Island in southeast Queensland when the container spill happened.

Moreton and Bribie Islands and southern parts of the Sunshine Coast have been declared disaster zones.

Public access will be restricted to the areas, to allow pollution response teams to clean up.

The State Premier Anna Bligh says disaster recovery centres have been set up in affected areas.

"These will see teams of people today out cleaning up on the beaches there will also be equipment being brought onto those beaches this is going to be a very delicate operation because a number of these beaches have suffered very serious erosion over the last week."

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has vowed to provide maximum federal help to clean up a massive oil spill in Queensland, describing it as a potential environmental tragedy.

"We will work very closely with the Queensland government and authorities on a maximum pitch-in by the commonwealth to assist the state authorities in dealing with this potential environmental tragedy," Mr Rudd told Fairfax Radio Network today.

The shipping company that owns the ship says the tank that leaked could have been carrying more than half a million litres of fuel.

A spokesman for the ship's owner says the fuel tank's maxium capacity was more than 500,000 litres, but when it leaked, some of the fuel was pumped into other tanks.

He couldn't say exactly how much fuel spilled, but it's thought up to 100,000 litres may be coating the south east Queensland coastline.

Meantime A Moreton Island resort manager is worried about the impact the oil spill will have on the region's dolphin population.

Yesterday, volunteers spent the day rescuing turtles and pelicans, but Trevor Hassard from Tangalooma Island Resort told ABC Breakfast the slick is bad news for the island's bottlenose dolphins.

He says the slick's effect on the beach is heartbreaking.

"The dolphins inside Moreton Bay are OK, but the problem is that the type of dolphins that are here are basically insular bottlenose dolphins and they stay in a small area called the home range," he told ABC Radio.

"The dolphins that live in the oil-affected area - that's where they live, they don't go anywhere else, so it's really, really difficult to sort of understand what's going to happen to them."

Mr Hassard says clean up efforts on Moreton Island will be hampered by the minimal infrastructure on an island that is 98 per cent national park.

"I don't think people realise that there's not even any electricity on Moreton Island," he said.

"It's a really isolated area. There's no roads on the island.

"To do anything on the island is 100 times harder than doing it on the mainland, so they've got a real problem in front of them."

He says locals are infuriated the ship responsible for the oil slick acted irresponsibly in wild ocean conditions.

"What I can't understand is that Brisbane is one of the busiest ports in Australia - I mean there's plenty of other ships out there that didn't lose any cargo - why this particular ship was basically losing cargo over the side, I just can't understand it," he said.

"It's something that doesn't happen in Australia. It's something that always happens overseas, but it's happened right here."

Source: Medindia

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