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Oil Spills

37 Miles of Australian Beaches Declared Disaster Zone Due to Oil Spill

oil spill

Some of Australia’s most popular white sand beaches were declared a disaster zone today after an 11,000 gallon fuel oil spill from the cargo ship Pacific Adventurer.

The oil blackened miles of pristine beaches and has led to the detainment of the ship by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

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“This could … be the worst environmental disaster we have faced.” – Anna Bligh, Queensland Premier

Bligh declared 37 miles of white sand beaches a disaster zone, and authorized closing of the beaches to public access. Bulldozers have already begun scraping up the blackened sand from the affected beaches.

The national parks at Bribie islands and Moreton north of Brisbane were the hardest hit by the spill, and northeastern Queensland state government is threatening Swire Shipping, Ltd (UK) with a multimillion dollar lawsuit.

The owners may be fined up to $1.3 million USD and could be also liable for up to $160 million USD in additional penalties for the environmental damage.

The ship’s owners, Swire, stated that containers on deck slipped and ripped a hole in a fuel tank, spilling at least 11,000 gallons into the sea. 31 containers holding 694 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer fell from the deck, and have not been found. The ship was traveling from Newcastle to Indonesia when it hit the remains of Cyclone Hamish.

A recent inspection of the hull by divers is leading to an estimate of “significantly more” than 11,000 gallons spilled. Officials accused Swire of initially misleading the government about the extent of the spill, telling the government it was much smaller, which lead officials to predict little environmental damage.

The company said they regret “the extent of the environmental pollution caused by spills of heavy fuel oil from the ship and the company is offering assistance with the clean up.”

So far, wildlife victims have been limited to birds coated in oil, but local authorities claim that as long as the oil slick remains, the damage could get much worse. The ship has been brought to port and detained until satisfactory explanation of the event has been given.

“We have detained the ship. It’s not going anywhere until we release it.” – Graham Peache, Maritime Safety Authority

The Great Barrier Reef is to the north of the spill, and is not considered threatened by the oil slick.

Image:polandeze at Flickr under CC license




3 comments
  1. Hala

    Will they use bioremediation to clean up the oil spill? e have the same problem in Lebanon, after an oil spill from a reservoir bombed by Israel in 2006, and it would be helpful for Lebanese environmentalists to learn if / how bioremediation can be used to clean marine oil spills elsewhere in the world.

  2. Peter Ramsay

    Ummm…the Exxon Valdez!! Next week is the 20th anniversary of that ecological disaster. Twenty years later is the environment any less vulnerable to catastrophic oil spills and are we any better prepared to respond?

    For more on the Exxon Valdez with a life application cut and paste this link into your browser:

    http://www.heaven4sure.com/MeandGodQuestions/LifeLessons/tabid/58/ctl/ArticleView/mid/387/articleId/583/Midnight-Ecological-Disaster-Exxon-Valdez-Remembered.aspx

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