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Tough action demanded after oil spill

PUBLISHED: 05:25 18 February 2003 | UPDATED: 16:18 24 February 2010

DEMANDS for the toughest action to stop oil pollution have been made after Suffolk's birdlife fell victim yet again oil pollution.

Port chiefs have praised their own clean-up but admitted that there were lessons to be learned after they failed to recover even one-third of the oil.

DEMANDS for the toughest action to stop oil pollution have been made after Suffolk's birdlife fell victim yet again oil pollution.

Port chiefs have praised their own clean-up but admitted that there were lessons to be learned after they failed to recover even one-third of the oil.

Harwich Port duty officer Peter Utterbridge said the last of the oil had been contained on Saturday afternoon, and all that would remain would be a sheen that would move backwards and forwards with the tide.

“It's the first time we have had a major big spill like that for a few years now. There will probably be a review of the operation to clean it up and any lessons to be learnt will be noted and hopefully learned, but it went very well ” he said.

Environmental campaigners are labelling the spillage a major disaster for wildlife and one despairing animal lover has spoken of her heartbreak after seeing swans caked in oil on the River Orwell.

It became clear yesterday that around 2,000 gallons of oil escaped into the estuary after a fracture in pipework at the Felixstowe oil jetty when a cargo vessel was pumping waste oil ashore.

Harwich Haven Authority, responsible for the harbour, said 600 gallons had been recovered by suction pumps with booms used to prevent the oil spreading.

Over the weekend 38 oiled swans were rescued by RSPCA inspectors from a long stretch of coast from Mistley Quay in Manningtree to Dovercourt, while one has been found in Ipswich. A further two have died.

Reserve warden Mick Wright said a large number of mute swans had been reported at Trimley Marshes.

“Accidents like this will happen from time to time and it is very sad and distressing for the birds, many of which are now oiled and may die. We have informed the RSPCA and will help them when they arrive,” he said.

The RSPB said it had inspected the banks of the River Stour and found no birds affected, and was satisfied no wading birds or wildfowl were oiled in the area.

Animal lover Lesley Andrews meanwhile called for a wildlife sanctuary in Suffolk to treat distressed birds and animals after she and her daughter Lois, 18, helplessly watched swans caked in oil at Loom Pit Lake, Trimley St Martin.

“Oil pollution is dreadful and it's heartbreaking that the swans have the added trauma of being carted away in a van, a long way away,” said Mrs Andrews, of Felixstowe Road, Ipswich.

“It is not just swans that are in danger but many species.”

Andy Mitchell, chief inspector of the RSPCA, said it would be weeks before the full extent of the disaster is known.

“We're expecting more birds to die. It's a major disaster as far as birds are concerned. They are so polluted.”

Yesterday Harwich harbourmaster Captain David Shennan said: “The main areas of concern were the oiling of swans at Parkestone. Two were found dead in Mistley. They must have flown back over the weekend and tried to clean themselves.

“There was a grain ship at Harwich International Port which they feed at.

“There was some oil on the beach at Harwich Green. Tendring District Council did some work.

“Overall things are pretty ok. No pollution is good news, but I was dreading first light on Friday when reports were due from the whole area.

“We had a narrow escape. I am not as concerned as I was initially. The total environmental impact was negligible. The oiling of the birds was the main concern.”


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