26 May 2010

Will the oil spill reach Singapore shores? (26 May)

Originally estimated at 2,000 tonnes, the spill is now believed to be 2,500 tonnes. As of last night, the spill has spread into a slick measuring 4 sq km located about 6km from Singapore shores and could hit Changi beaches by today.

Here's a summary of the latest media reports about the oil spill (links below).

How is the clean up progressing?
According to Antara, an Indonesian marine police officer said after 14 hours of rescue and cleaning up efforts made together with Singapore and Malaysian police, part of the oil slick had been removed. "But we are a little constrained in our work because we use minimal equipment. We will possibly get more personnel and better equipment tomorrow, Wednesday (May 26)."

Any health impact on people?
The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore and the National Environment Agency said in a joint statement that the pervasive 'petrol' smell could have been caused by oil which had evaporated. They said "there was no cause for alarm as no toxic chemicals were detected in the air".

What about impact on the marine environment?
According to the Straits Times, experts such as Professor Chou Loke Ming from the National University of Singapore are monitoring the spill to see if there is an impact on the shoreline.

If containment fails, Prof Chou said, the oil could foul Singapore shores within a day. 'It will depend on the hydrological conditions at the time, such as the prevailing direction and strength of the wind and tides.'

However, he added that any environmental damage is unlikely to be significant as the area is largely made up of reclaimed land, sea walls and canals.

At the same time, Waterways Watch chairman Eugene Heng said there are concerns over the oil spill regardless of its severity. "Even if it doesn't reach our shores, the pollution could affect marine life," he said.

Will the slick reach Pulau Ubin and northern shores such as Chek Jawa?
According to Today, the waters around Ubin and Pasir Ris were not contaminated at press time.

According to a fish farmer there, "We are now experiencing southern winds. So, the oil spill is expected to reach the farm in two or three days. Fortunately, by then, the toxicity would be less and the oil would have diluted."

But the Straits Times reports AVA's director of agricultural industry Wong Hon Mun saying "There is a possibility of the spill reaching Pulau Tekong and Pulau Ubin today, depending on the tides and wind".

According to Bernama, the Johor Department of Environment, in a statement Tuesday said, because of south-westerly winds of 20-30km/hour and low tide from 3.25pm, the oil spill is not expected to affect Malaysian waters or local beaches in Pengerang (which lies just off Pulau Tekong).

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