300 Tonnes Oil Spilt On New Zealand Coastline

Dead Birds Already Washed Up At Mt Maunganui, Tauranga. Seals and fish will be the next seen to suffer. People will suffer too: Apart from not being able to eat the fish caught in the area, and not being able to swim or surf on the beaches, there is a health hazard for humans and all animals who use the area, as oil is carcenogic. That means that it causes cancer.

The ‘Rena’ became stranded on the Astrolabe Reef over a week ago. The accident sent off alarm bells for many of us, as we remembered the Gulf of Mexico disaster. We suspected that the accident was very much down-played by the authorities, and that the rescue mission to remove all the oil on board might not happen in time to prevent the spillage of oil into the sea. As we feared, action was very slow from our government, and from the ship’s owners. And now, the oil is indeed spilling into the sea.

We were given the update on TV3 News tonight about the marine accident, just after politician Nick Smith ‘the right honourable’, minister for the environment, declared the situation as “The worst maritime environmental disaster New Zealand has ever seen”. We saw cameramen aboard a small craft which was out there in the ocean, amidst a four to five metre swell, getting as close as it could to the ‘Rena’ which is stranded on the Astrolabe Reef. This was around a kilometre away, being the exclusion zone declared by the marine authorities since the accident a week ago. Nevertheless, the surface of the water looked to be a greyish-black over the whole expanse of the sea around this exclusion zone, and beyond.

This accident should be a awarning to all the ‘right honourables’ of New Zealand’s National Party government under the leadership of John Key. They have given the ‘go-ahead’ to Brazilian oil company Petrobras to drill in the ocean of New Zealand’s East Coast, regardless of protests by the public urging them not to do this. They have also given permission for other oil drilling to be done by another oil company,on the west coast of New Zealand. They have paid no heed to the disastrous consequences of oil drilling gone wrong, as ween in the Gulf of Mexico, after the massive oil spill there by an ocean oil drill just last year. Now, they might perhaps have an inkling about what the rest of us were on about, when we said how devastating an oil spill would be for the region.

This oil spillage by the ship ‘Rena’ over in Tauranga will be simply devastating on many levels. The worst aspect is that the environment is spoilt, and that people’s health, too, will suffer. As well, the enjoyment and use of the beaches in the Bay Of Plenty is now impaired. Many small businesses will be also affected, such as fishing, and tourism, with many people’s livlihoods threatened.

The ship ‘Rena’, which is shipwrecked off the East Coast Port of Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty, is still spilling tonnes of oil into the sea. Dead birds are already turning up on the beaches. The oil slicks are moving in to the shores, where they are contaminating beaches. Many of the shell-fish growing on the rocks will be poisoned, and many shell-fish will die. The surviving shell-fish will be contaminated, and may not be good to eat for many years now, as the oil will infiltrate the porous rocks along the coast where the shell-fish grow.

A Toxic Dispersal Agent Is Being Sprayed On The Sea Around Tauranga: The dispersal agent being used in the clean-up, saccording to the news tonight, is Porex 9550, which is toxic in itself. It partially dissolves the oil, but does no good to the environment. My guess is that this chemical is related to the Corexit 9500 chemical, originally developed by Exxon, and now manufactured by Nalco Holding Co. in America. This is the chemical solvent which was used in the Gulf of Mexico oil clean-up. This chemical is reported to be four times more toxic than the oil it is supposed to ‘clean up’. This is a cosmetic measure – All it does is to make the oil more liquid, so that it disperses over a wider area. But the oil – and the toxic dispersal chemicals – are all still in the sea. There is a question being asked as to why this chemical was chosen above a less harmful water-soluble product, for the Gulf of Mexico clean-up. Apparently, the shares in the company of Nalco Holdings went up dramatically the day after it was announced that the Corexit 9500 would be used for the Gulf of Mexico clean-up. It is possible that it is exactly the same chemical being used here in New Zealand, and that ‘Porex 9550’ is actually ‘Corexit 9500’, the latter label being mentioned on TV3’s news tonight, and on ‘Campbell Live’.

The alternative, less harmful dispersal agent is one called ‘Dispersit’, which is manufactured by Polychem. Polychem is a division of the U.S. Polychemical Corporation. This product is reported to have only a third of the toxicity ot the Corexit 9500 chemical. This information about these solvents comes from the on-line article entitled “Protect The Ocean’.

But instead of the less harmful alternative, 600 litres of the more toxic chemical, Porex 9550 ?, have so far been poured into the ocean out from Tauranga. Greens Party Russell Norman says they have decided too soon to use this toxic chemical. It has been banned in Sweden. In the United Kingdom, the same toxic agent is restricted. Greens say that there is not enough evidence for its safety to support the government using it.

Also on board the container-vessel ‘Rena’ which is stranded on the Astrolabe Reef at Mt Maunganui is a large shipment of ‘Astrolabe’ wine meant for the dining tables of Europe. This is a New Zealand-made wine which comes from Marlborough, in the South Island. It is extremely ironic that the ‘Rena’ which carries the ‘Astrolabe’ wine is shipwrecked, stuck on the Astrolabe reef. TV3 Campbell Live reporter pointed out that the Astrolabe is an ancient instrument used by mariners to determine the depth of the sea, and that if the ‘Rena’ had had an Astrolabe on board, it would have been able to avoid getting stranded on the Astrolabe. In which case the Astrolabe wine would have reached its destination, and, more importantly, the oil spill would not have occured. Bad judgement all around.


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