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UK Environmental news

Tuesday 29th September 2009
Delayed Cleanup of Australian Oil Spill

The continued gushing of oil from the West Atlas oilrig into the Timor Sea threatens to become one of the worst environmental disasters in Australian history. The rig has been leaking oil at an approximate rate of 400 barrels a day since mid August. PTTEP Australasia, the Thai Company that operates the rig is not set to plug the leak for at least another three weeks.

The West Atlas rig began leaking oil and gas on Friday 21st of August, causing the evacuation of all sixty-nine crew to Darwin. The rig, situated 250 km north of the Kimberley coast is in an area classified as Australian waters. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority was brought in to handle the cleanup and dispersant was used to try to break up the spill. This operation met with limited success and the resultant pollution is clearly visible from the air over the area.

Environmental groups are particularly concerned over the well-being of marine life in the area. Species including humpback whales, sea snakes, turtles and marlin are prevalent in the area and dolphins have been observed swimming through the chemical sludge in the weeks since the spill began.

PTTEP are coming under increased pressure to bring the spill under control and make safe the rig as some reports claim the spill is moving closer to the coast. The Australian Federal Government says it has contingency plans in place should the spill reach the coast, but that it thinks this outcome unlikely.

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