Spilled fuel escapes into Lyttelton harbour

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 10:39 07/03/2014
Slip damages fuel tank
Iain McGregor
DAMAGED: A slip has damaged a fuel tank at Lyttelton.

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Firefighters are still pumping leaked jet fuel off the ground in Lyttelton, but about 1500 litres has already leaked into the harbour. 

The Mobil jet fuel tank, containing 1.2 million litres of fuel, was severely damaged from a landslide next to the Lyttelton terminal about 2pm on Wednesday following heavy rainfall.

The leak was contained yesterday and a Fire Service spokesman said firefighters were working with Mobil to continue pumping spilled fuel into other tanks at the terminal today.

They hoped to complete the work today, he said.

Brittan Tce - the main link between Lyttelton and Governors Bay - remained closed, but Cressy Tce was open as a detour for light vehicles. A detour was also available via State Highway 75 and Gebbies Pass.

Eleven of the 19 households evacuated following the slip were still not allowed to go back to their homes on Cressy, Brittan and Park terraces last night. 

An Environment Canterbury (ECan) spokeswoman said the stormwater system near the damaged fuel tanks had been sealed yesterday.

About 40,000 litres of jet fuel was removed from the stormwater system near the tank, but a small amount of fuel was still getting in.

A boom had been placed in Lyttelton Harbour around the stormwater outlet to capture any more jet fuel that spilled into the sea. It would then be removed with special equipment.

"Small amounts of a rainbow-coloured sheen of kerosene were observed in several locations which indicates that while kerosene is present, [it is] very thin and is dispersing naturally," the spokeswoman said. 

ECan's marine oil spill team carried out a second on-water assessment yesterday afternoon focused on Quail Island, finding no signs of jet fuel near the island. 

An earlier assessment from the water and the air found no sign of birds in distress, she said.

"The situation is continuing to be monitored and a full reassessment will be conducted [this morning]."

Mobil said its priority was to prevent any further release of fuel into the water.

"We apologise for any disruption or inconvenience that this is causing. Our concern continues to be the safety of our employees, contractors and the community," the company said in a statement.

An inspection of the Woolston pipeline yesterday found it did not suffer any damage in the storm and it was turned back on about 3pm. 

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Mobil has a community information line for any residents with questions or concerns, 0800 777 979.

- The Press

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