Oil spill may have caused ‘irreversible’ damage to ecosystem: Residents

Published : 12:01 am  September 27, 2018 | No comments so far |  | 

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The ecosystem was yet to recover from a previous oil spill when the recent one occurred, residents in Wattala and Dikkowita who witnessed both disasters lamented. 


When the incident had occurred several years ago, relevant officials have promised to take steps to ensure such an environmental disaster would not occur again. However, the measures taken by them proved to be futile as another oil spill occurred lately. 


Close to 25 tonnes of crude oil was dispersed along the western coast earlier this month when a fuel pipe at sea burst while a cargo ship was transferring fuel to the Muthurajawela storage facility. While officers at the scene had taken all measures to inform the relevant high-ups, it is no secret that many were woefully unprepared for the disaster that was to wash ashore soon after. Local government and relevant administrative officers in affected areas including Wattala, Kerawalapitiya and Pamunugama were unavailable at the site and unaware of the gravity of the disaster.   

 

Close to 25 tonnes of crude oil was dispersed along the western coast earlier this month when a fuel pipe at sea burst while a cargo ship was transferring fuel to the Muthurajawela storage facility


Despite all measures to deal with the spill, officers were unaware of the magnitude of fuel they would need to clean out. The shores from Dikkowita to Palliyawatte, Avarakotuwa and Uswetakeiyawa were drenched in fuel that washed ashore the following days. Golden stretches of beach had turned black. 


While the damage caused is yet to be assessed, the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) said the marine ecosystem in the area had been severely affected by the incident. 


MEPA Media Spokesman Saumya Ekanayake confirmed that legal action would be taken against those responsible for the incident. 


“We are working with the Navy, Army, Coast Conservation Department and the fuel distribution unit towards cleaning out the oil spill,” he said earlier this week. 


Meanwhile, trade unions connected to the Muthurajawela storage facility said the disaster would not have occurred if the pipelines were maintained. The union went on to say that the pipes were very old and that the continuous influx of cargo ships with fuel that needed to be unloaded meant there was little to no time to repair or renovate the pipeline. 


“If the pipes are to be repaired, that would delay work with the cargo ships which in turn means the government will have to pay a late fee,” the union said. 

 

MEPA Media Spokesman Saumya Ekanayake confirmed that legal action would be taken against those responsible for the incident


Environmentalist Tilak Senasinghe told Daily Mirror that chemicals in the fuel had already become a part of the coral and sand. 


“Although oil on the surface has been removed, the chemicals will be in the sand and the corals for a long time. This will affect the ecosystem,” he said.   

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