The Oily mess disaster


On 28th January this year, two ships, BW Maple and a petroleum tanker Dawn Kanchipuram, crashed into each other, off the Kamarajar Port at Ennore near Chennai, leaking Heavy Fuel Oil into the sea. In a few days the actual scale of the disaster dawned on everybody. The Indian Coast Guard, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and the Kamarajar Port began their clean-up operations. Aided by thousands of enthusiastic volunteersand the local fishermen, and armed with buckets, they removed nearly 200 tonnes of toxic and inflammable sludge with inadequate protective gear.The estimated area affected by this is said to be around 52kms of the coastline. Fishermen have had to stay away from the seas for more twenty days.

These oily disasters kill wildlife, pollute air and water, and alter the eco-system for years to come. Petroleum oils are known cancer causing agents. They enter the body through inhalation, ingestion and the skin. Rocks remain covered with oil, and the gaps between
rocks filled with toxic oily residues. An oil spill clean-up is a hazardous waste remediation exercise. The Chennai incident has taught us that we need effective mechanisms in place to handle the emergency situations, which was so well mishandled in the
present case.

Bio-remediation – Scientists of the Indian Oil Corporation treated over 100 tonnes of oil sludge (oil mixed with soil and water) using indigenous technology involving a cocktail of bacteria (Bio-inoculum) and nutrients.

The waste management activity must be accompanied by a rigorous system of documentation, record keeping and data management. This system is required to manage the waste operation and to provide assurance that waste is stored, transported and disposed-off in accordance with regulatory requirements as well as the waste management plan.

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