06 June 2010

Oil spill spread and clean up: a summary

A little more than a week after the oil spill hit shores, the authorities have declared it cleaned up and that the waters at Changi and the East Coast have "returned to normal".
I've finally got a breather from field trips, and thought I should do a round-up of the spread of the oil slick and what was done to clean it up. In other posts, also how did the spill affect people, how will marine life be affected and can it happen again?

In Singapore, the oil slick hit our shores on 26 May from media reports, and what I saw. It made landfall at Changi Naval Base and Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, spreading to a 7.2 km stretch of the East Coast beach from NSRCC to the Goldkist Beach Resort chalets near Marine Vista.
from Straits Times 29 May 10;

By 27 May, the oil slick had hit Chek Jawa and Changi Beach Carpark 7 and 6 according to media reports. On 28 May, "light staining" was reported at Changi Beach Carpark 1 according to media reports.
Satellite image taken from above Changi Naval Base (rectangular shaped structure) by CRISP. The bright dots are ships and the oil slick is the patches of black around the coast. -- PHOTO: NUS Straits Times 26 May 10;

MPA said on 31 May that passing ships and aircraft had noticed further patches of oil in Malaysian waters and the shipping lanes to the east of Singapore.

In Johor, the oil slick hit on 28 May. On 30 May it was reported that oil hit some 30km of beach near Teluk Ramunia. Among the areas involved are Tanjung Punggai, Sungai Rengit, Langkah Baru, Sungai Buntu, Sungai Kapal and Sungai Musuh. On 31 May it was reported that the oil hit Tanjung Ayam, Sungai Rengit, Sungai Musuh and Sungai Haji Ahmad in Pengerang. On 2 Jun it was reported that Sungai Musoh, Sungai Ahmad and Tanjung Kapal were also affected and that clearing sludge near Sungai Musuh was difficult because of the rocky coastline. On 4 Jun it was reported that a total of 17.8km of the shores between Tanjung Pengelih and Tanjung Pinggai were affected.
From The Star 1 Jun 10;

Clean up measures in Johor

Malaysian Environment Minister said that during the initial stage of the clean-up exercise, 4,000m of booms and 50 tonnes of chemical dispersants were used to stop the oil sludge from spreading. The Department of Enviroment (DOE) said on 6 Jun for Pengerang "A total of 19,860 bags containing contaminated sand and 37,391 litres of oil were collected in the operation," involving 105 people.

The DOE said "We can’t use the dispersant system as it might harm the marine life there" and that some of the oil, which is stuck on the boulders, has to be removed manually.

DOE announced major clean up completed on 4 Jun with only minor cleanup to complete.

Clean up measures in Singapore

On Chek Jawa it was reported on 30 May that volunteers shoveled up the brown oil sludge that had coated the shoreline and transferred it into large plastic bags. Some used oil-absorbent cloths provided by NParks to clean rock surfaces and mangrove roots stained by the oil.
A 1km long boom has been placed offshore from east of Pulau Ubin as a measure to prevent oil leaked from the tanker accident from affecting Chek Jawa and Pulau Ubin coastal areas. -- ST PHOTO: SAMUEL HE
Oil spill reaching Chek Jawa. -- PHOTO: NPARKS

The clean-up at Chek Jawa was reported completed on 1 Jun, and NParks will remove the oil booms surrounding the area as no new oil slicks have been reported.

The first and only statement by Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Yaacob Ibrahim was on 2 Jun which was made on the sidelines of a community event. He said "We will continue to conduct tests and investigate if there are any forms of deterioration. But at the moment, based on what we have seen and what experts have said, there is no discernible indication that there have been deterioration."

NEA said on 2 Jun that it had "tested samples of seawater from the affected beaches and found no trace of harmful chemicals." It noted that a faint petroleum-like odour and traces of tar balls could still be detected at the edge of the water. MPA gave the waters around Singapore a clean bill of health for the second day running, with no patches of oil spotted.

NEA announced on 4 Jun that it was safe to do water activities at East Coast Beach and Changi Beach as "the water at the two beaches have returned to normal". Although the public may still come across some small tar balls along the shoreline, NEA says there is no cause for alarm, as contact with the tar balls will not cause any harm.

By 5 Jun, crowds were back on Singapore's affected beaches and business was back to normal.

In the last report on the cleanup effort: Some 60 tonnes of contaminated oil sand bags have been removed since the clean-up began. Efforts over the last 11 days involved more than 20 boats and 120 personnel. [Unspecified quantities and type of] biodegradable dispersants were used to break up the oil while 3.3km of booms were put in place to hold in the spill.

Clean-up costs are estimated to reach hundreds of thousands.

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