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Oil warning to beach walkers

PUBLISHED: 19:14 21 February 2003 | UPDATED: 16:18 24 February 2010

By Roddy Ashworth

TEAMS of volunteers were still hard at work last night clearing a 12-mile section of coastline affected by an oil slick.

But environmental workers were confident the slick was not going to cause the long-term catastrophe some had initially feared.

By Roddy Ashworth

TEAMS of volunteers were still hard at work last night clearing a 12-mile section of coastline affected by an oil slick.

But environmental workers were confident the slick was not going to cause the long-term catastrophe some had initially feared.

Lumps of oil washed up along the stretch of coast between Dovercourt Bay and Martello Bay were described by Tendring District Council spokesman Mike Page as “widespread, but light”.

He added none of the beaches had been closed, but warning signs had been put up at all points along the coastline. “It is still important that the public take care and remain alert,” said Mr Page.

Dispersed oil has also entered the waters of popular beaches such as Walton-on-the-Naze and Clacton.

But Mr Page said those conditions had not deterred visitors and added: “Our clearance and safety teams are working at high tide so that the globules of oil can be removed effectively.

“Thankfully, the tide dissipates the oil so this will avoid a lot of clearing. The coast is being constantly monitored, so it's now just a matter of time.”

Suffolk Coastal District Council said it was also carefully monitoring oil that was currently being washed up along the coastline.

Chris Slemmings, its cabinet member for the environment, said: “We are working closely with the Environment Agency over the progress of this oil and any required cleaning up of the beach will be undertaken in consultation with the Environment Agency and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

“In the meantime, the council is erecting signs warning members of the public that oil is being washed up and to take care when walking along the shoreline.”

The source of the oil slick has yet to be identified, but there are fears lumps of the emulsified oil, which are up to 1ft across, could have come from a pipeline spillage at Felixstowe Port last week.

Suffolk Coastal District Council said it understood the Environment Agency was investigating whether the oil had come from the cargo ship the Tricolor, which is submerged in the English Channel, as it appeared to be a different type from that which came from the Felixstowe spillage.

More than 30 swans were rescued from Trimley and Loom Pit Lake and guillemots, waders and cormorants were also heavily affected by the spillage.

It happened on February 13 when a pipeline operated by Felixstowe Tank Developments Limited severed, spilling an estimated 2,000 gallons of the oil into the Orwell estuary.

The birds were completely covered in the oil, which makes flying and searching for food difficult.

The oil is also toxic and the birds swallow large amounts of it as they preen themselves in an attempt to remove the sticky mess.

Environment Agency spokeswoman Louise Riley said: “Our investigation is under way and evidence is being collected at present. But at this stage we cannot comment on what legal action we shall be taking, if any.”

No-one from Felixstowe Tank Developments Limited was available for comment yesterday.

roddy.ashworth@eadt.co.uk


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