Storm Helps with Oil Spill Cleanup


Wednesday, March 18th 2009, 4:57 pm
By: News 9


A heavy storm which swept through southeast Queensland state in Australia 
overnight on Tuesday might have given a helping hand to the cleanup of the 
massive oil spill along the coastline.

A Queensland Maritime Safety spokesman said they hoped the heavy rain and wild
 weather will help the situation.

The sand track which cuts across Moreton Island was also being worked on, he 
said.

On Monday the Australian government sent a navy mine hunting ship to search
for  hundreds of tons of chemicals lost overboard during a mishap that also 
blackened miles of beaches with fuel oil.

Authorities said they have scraped the slick off of more than half of the 
affected beaches just north of the Queensland state capital Brisbane,
following  Wednesday's spillage from the freighter Pacific Adventurer.

Authorities declared a disaster zone Friday along 37 miles (60 kilometres) of 
some of Australia's most popular beaches, after it became clear the spill was 
much worse than it was initially thought.

However, polluted sand is no longer being taken off the island each day.

It's being stockpiled at a holding station so full barge loads can be taken 
away each trip.

Maritime Safety says an extra 300-strong crew will be put to work on the
island  on Tuesday, half from Brisbane City Council and the others from Road
Tech and  the Department of Public Works.

The spokesman said it is impossible to put a figure on just how much of the 
coastline is being cleaned each day because the figure changes so much and
each  day's work is dictated by the tide.

Around 20-thousand big plastic bags, used to haul away contaminated sand, will
 be brought in to Moreton Island by barge on Tuesday morning after supplies
ran  out on Monday.

The spill happened when 31 containers lashed to the ship's deck broke free 
during a storm and fell overboard, ripping a hole in a fuel tank as they 
pitched into the sea.

Each of the containers held some 22 tons (20 tonnes) of ammonium nitrate, a 
chemical used as fertilizer that can also be explosive if mixed with diesel
and  detonated.

Authorities say ammonium nitrate dilutes easily in water and that at worst the
 spilled containers could cause an algal bloom.

Authorities estimate that 66-thousand gallons (250-thousand litres) of oil 
spilled from the ship.

Britain's Swire Shipping Ltd., the Hong Kong-registered ship's owner, has not 
publicly confirmed the amount.