Corexit chemical stored in Gladstone - but where?

Shen Neng 1 grounded on Douglas Shoals, Great Barrier Reef approximately 100km East of Yeppoon on the Capricorn Coast.
Shen Neng 1 grounded on Douglas Shoals, Great Barrier Reef approximately 100km East of Yeppoon on the Capricorn Coast. Chris Ison

CHEMICALS used for cleaning up oil spills that have been linked to deaths in the United States are still being stored in Gladstone - but the authority assigned with managing it won't say where.

It follows the use of the agent Corexit 9527 in the emergency response to the Shen Neng 1 oil spill in the Great Barrier Reef off Gladstone in 2010.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has told The Observer that 3000 litres of Corexit 9500A is part of a national stockpile kept in Gladstone.

But a spokeswoman said the agent would not currently be used in a spill response, as the chemical is no longer considered to meet Australian standards.

Its use was reviewed in 2011, and AMSA began destroying Corexit stocks.

But that was after 2000 litres of Corexit 9527 was used in the response to the 2010 Shen Neng 1 disaster.

Around the same time, more than a million litres of the same dispersant was used on the disastrous BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The toxic combination of oil and Corexit washed up on Louisiana beaches has been linked to a range of health problems, and even deaths.

Since then, Corexit products have been removed from the product list for the National Plan to Combat Pollution of the Sea by Oil and other Noxious and Hazardous Substances.

"AMSA carefully considers the use of dispersants ... taking into account all the factors including risk to the environment posed by both oil and dispersant," the spokeswoman said.

She said AMSA would not use Corexit until it met Australian standards.

The Australian Marine Conservation society said port expansion increased the risk of more spills.

Toxic spill 'mystery'

MORE than three years since the Shen Neng 1 ran aground in Douglas Shoals on the Great Barrier Reef, the authority responsible for the national treasure can't say exactly where the toxic combination of oil and chemical dispersant went.

The disaster, in April 2010, saw Maritime Safety Queensland authorise 2000 litres of dispersant Corexit 9527 sprayed on three to four tonnes of oil spill.

A Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority spokeswoman said nearby turtle nesting beaches were considered when the Corexit was sprayed.

"We monitored the beaches of the Capricorn Bunker group of islands after the dispersant was used and no impact was detected," she said.

"The oil and Corexit was dispersed into the water column, and no further monitoring was conducted given the small amount of oil and dispersant involved."

She said that GBRMPA visited the reef three times following the disaster to inspect the damage.

The total damaged area was estimated at 400,000 sq m and that the site remained damaged with anti-foulant paint evident.

In 2011, a report by GBRMPA admitted: "The release of fuel oil and the subsequent application of dispersant chemicals has added to this pollution, potentially affecting a wider area because of its dissolved state".

EARLIER: A CHEMICAL agent blamed for causing illness and death in America was allegedly used to clean an oil spill on the Great Barrier Reef.

According to an investigation aired on Channel Nine's 60 Minutes program on Sunday night, about 2000 litres of CoRexit 9527 - a chemical dispersant used during the clean-up of BP's Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico - was dispersed during the response to the grounding of Chinese bulk carrier The Shen Neng 1 off Rockhampton in April 2010.

The Shen Neng 1 caused damage to a 400,000sqm section of the Great Barrier Reef, the equivalent of 58 football fields, after it ploughed into Douglas Shoal about 120km from Rockhampton.

The 60 Minutes program aired allegations of illness and death among humans and wildlife in communities affected by the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill, after millions of litres of the chemicals were sprayed in to the environment in an effort to disperse massive flows of crude oil.

The dispersant, when mixed with the oil, increases in toxicity by 52 times.

It was also alleged the CoRexit 9527 and CoRexit 9500 were used during the clean-up of the Montara oil rig spill off WA in 2009.

The program alleged about 19,000 litres of CoRexit 9500 is being stored onshore in Gladstone and Darwin for use in the event of a spill.

Jane Cutler from the offshore petroleum safety authority NOPSEMA told the program the chemical dispersants were "very commonly used and approved for use in Australia for an oil spill" and added she was not aware of the "specific toxicity" of every dispersant used in Australia.

The Maritime Safety Authority was reported as saying the dispersants were in the process of being phased out.

Shen Neng 1 grounded on Douglas Shoals, Great Barrier Reef approximately 100km East of Yeppoon on the Capricorn Coast.
Shen Neng 1 grounded on Douglas Shoals, Great Barrier Reef approximately 100km East of Yeppoon on the Capricorn Coast. Chris Ison

Topics:  environment gladstone great barrier reef oil spill shen neng

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