Remedial work for spill

A ship berths at the Malau Port where the alleged oil spill took place. Picture : LUKE RAWALAI

THE Ministry of Environment with the Fiji Forest Industries (FFI) Ltd management will closely monitor remedial works on a chemical spill at Malau, Labasa last week. Ministry of Environment’s permanent secretary Joshua Wycliffe said on Monday last week FFI had reported that one of their Tanalith storage tanks had burst and that the chemical had spilt over into the surrounding environment at the facility.

Considered as a very toxic chemical to aquatic organisms, the United Kingdom’s safety data sheet revealed that the chemical could have lasting effects on the marine ecosystem.

The data sheet also classified the chemical as able to cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment.

“The product should not be allowed to enter drains, water courses or the soil,” the data sheet revealed.

“It is a mix of chromium, copper and arsenic.”

Mr Wycliffe said a co-ordinated approach was taken by three agencies — Ministry of Environment, National Fire Authority and the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji — to mitigate the spillage.

“The chemical Tanalith is used to treat sawn timber, while the facility is located at Malau, Labasa on an elevated lot from the sea,” he said. “The distance from the sea to where the chemical tank ruptured is about 200 metres.

“Immediate remedial work reported (apart from containing the spill) undertaken included the deposit of sawdust in the contaminated area which is used to soak up contaminated water. “Spilt chemical was pumped into glue containers and preventive measures ordered include increase of the Bund height which holds the chemical tanks to prevent incidents from reoccurring.” Mr Wycliffe said FFI management would bury the collected chemicals with the container whereby the base of the dug pit would be made of concrete and covered with sawdust, compacted with soil. “It is understood that a stop-work notice was issued by the ministry and a remedial notice under Section 38(1) of the Environment Management Act,” he said.