Seafood warning following oil spill

LEIGHTON KEITH
Last updated 05:00 28/06/2011

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A toxic oil spill in the Awakino River last week could have made seafood in the area unsafe for human consumption.

Residents in the Awakino area are being told to avoid eating fish or shellfish gathered or caught since the spill.

Booms were set up along the river after a truck carrying 24,000 litres of waste oil crashed and spilled its cargo in the Awakino Gorge on June 22.

The Waikato Regional Council, Department of Conservation and a wildlife team from Massey University visited the scene to assess any environmental effects from the spill.

About 6000 litres of oil were recovered from the river and the remainder is believed to have been washed out to sea.

Waikato Regional Council spokesman Adam Munro said yesterday there was very little oil remaining in the river or on its banks.

"We have now removed our oil capturing booms from the river and the wildlife team from Massey University has returned to Palmerston North," Mr Munro said.

"Our advice is that fish won't die as a result of the oil spill and will excrete any oil they've absorbed within a few weeks. But in the meantime people should avoid eating any fish or shellfish that smell of oil."

About a dozen birds, including ducks, shags and terns, were lightly coated in oil but were not able to be caught as they had not been badly affected, Mr Munro said.The agencies will develop a monitoring programme to keep an eye on the river and its wildlife over the coming weeks.

"Thankfully the environmental impact of the spill appears to have been fairly low. But we will monitor the situation in case there's anything more we need to do," he said.

The trucking company, Transpacific Industrial Solutions, will carry out repair work near the boat ramp, where the first oil boom was set up.

"It was the centre of operations. There was a lot of activity there so they want to return it to the best possible state they can," Mr Munro said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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