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Oil spill abates,but leakage source not plugged

The oil spill caused by sunken vessel MV Rak Carrier showed signs of abating on Tuesday as the rate of oil escaping reduced to 0.5 tonnes per hour.

Written by Express News Service | Mumbai | Published: August 10, 2011 1:22:01 am

The oil spill caused by sunken vessel MV Rak Carrier showed signs of abating on Tuesday as the rate of oil escaping reduced to 0.5 tonnes per hour. However,the source of the oil leakage was not detected even till late evening.

The Coast Guard said the oil had been successfully restricted to five nautical miles (nm),which had spread to 12 nm on Monday. They also found that an area of up to 12 nm from the coast was devoid of any oil patches. Between 80 and 100 tonnes of oil has leaked since the spill began around 3.30 pm on Saturday. “Although the south-west monsoon winds are such that the oil remnants will wash ashore,we won’t allow any fresh oil to reach the coast of Maharashtra,” said a Coast Guard official.

However,the Ministry of Earth Sciences predicted that oil was likely to reach Thane Creek and Uran in 48 hours.

Meanwhile,the source of the oil leakage has still not been plugged. The local protection and indemnity (P&I) correspondent had on Monday assured that salvage companies will soon plug the leak,but on Tuesday they were still seeking a response from experts. The procedure is to send divers to identify the exact location of the source of leakage and then find measures to plug it,said a source.

More locations such as Dadar Chowpatty and Bandra Bandstand reported tar balls. National Institute of Oceanography officials collected samples from Khardanda and Sewri. “We found a coating of oil on the mangroves of Khardanda. We are in the process of collecting all the observations and making a comparative report of samples from all areas. There is a high content of hydrocarbons in the water,but what that means can only be said conclusively after an assessment. On the basis of that,we will be able to predict damage and recovery,” said S N Gajbhiye,a scientist from NIO. The Coast Guard has deployed teams at all affected sites to coordinate beach clean-up.

“We have submitted all the samples collected to NIO and asked them to prepare a report in three months,which will quantify the damage,if any,to the environment. We’ll also charge the owners for the shore clean-up we have undertaken through the P&I insurance,” said Valsa Nair Singh,Environment Secretary.

The Coast Guard confirmed that the source of the oil patches in Juhu as well as Alibaugh was Rak. “On Sunday,there was confusion about the source of oil in a specific part of Juhu because it was fresh oil and when oil is worked upon by dispersants,as in the case of Rak,it becomes like tar balls or mosses. It was then found that some lube oil was leaking from Pavit,” said an official. But Maharashtra Pollution Control Board verified that samples from both Juhu and Alibaug had furnace oil content,nailing the source as Rak.

The Central Pollution Control Board also extended support to the state with the chairman in the city to oversee the efforts.

Ruckus In House over spate of spills

Opposition members in the Assembly on Tuesday raised concern over the series of ships running aground or sinking off Mumbai’s coast and the oil spill along Juhu beach. The Leader of Opposition Eknath Khadse said five ships were involved in mishaps in recent times. This not only poses environmental problems,but also raising the question on citizens’ security,especially in the wake of terror attacks,he said.

Speaker Dilip Walse-Patil disallowed the adjournment motion and asked the government to take suitable action. Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray said the spills were affecting fishing activities and advisory to avoid consumption will hit fishermen. “We have asked the government to ensure their livelihood is not affected.”

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