NEWS

Threat remains of highly toxic substances leaking into sea from ship

A floating barrier has been installed to limit the fuel oil leaking from the ship but the pollution has spread and is encroaching on a long stretch of the coast. Removing the surface pollution was undertaken successfully by the Technical Environmental Protection company. However 200 of the 450 tons of crude oil in the ship’s tanks still remain there. In addition, there are also engine oils, cooling liquids, solvents, detergents and all kinds of toxic substances, all of which will slowly be absorbed by the sea. Water tests carried out after the shipwreck showed that pollutants are leaking slowly from the wreck but the findings warned that repercussions will become evident later. Samples taken by the Hellenic Center for Marine Research (ELKETHE) early in September have not yet been fully analyzed and further samples will be taken in November. The quality of the water is of particular importance as there is a desalination plant on the island. Local authorities, the Institute for Aegean Marine and Environmental Research, Greenpeace and the Environmental Department of the Merchant Navy Ministry have demanded that the fuel left in the ship be immediately removed. The company claims pumping is dangerous and, citing a study carried out by London Offshore Consultants Ltd, says it should not be attempted. The Merchant Navy has pointed out in writing that ships have been hauled out of even greater depths using modern technology and that the company was obliged by law to salvage the ship using safe methods. An inquiry is also being conducted by the European Commission and an extension will be given if a plan to pump the oil and salvage the ship is submitted. Otherwise the Greek authorities will take the case to the European Court. According to a legal adviser to Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, if the ship is considered to be waste it cannot be abandoned in the sea as this is an infringement of EU regulations. There are also many plastic materials on the ship which are prohibited as highly toxic. If these are released the damage to the ecosystem will be irreversible