Caltex oil spill at Botany Bay caused by the recent heavy rains. Photo: Recreational Fishing Alliance The pollution has been described as a ‘sheen’ rather than a ‘spill’. Photo: Recreational Fishing Alliance
Fish and birdlife in Botany Bay have been “devastated” by an oil spill from the Caltex Kurnell Refinery with the pollution washing up on the shore of a nearby national park, a local fishing group claims.
Caltex, though, said the pollution was caused by heavy rain triggering an overflow from containment areas. The spill was a small one and was quickly contained by crews from the Sydney Ports Corporation, the company said.
Stan Konstantas, president of the South Sydney Amateur Fishing Association and a local resident, said local anglers had started calling the Environment Protection Authority after 3pm after a slick began spreading across the bay. Clean-up vessels took hours to arrive, he said.
“I’ve never seen a slick like that in the bay and I’ve been here for close to 40 years”, Mr Konstantas said. “I saw birds going through it, fish going through it.”
Mr Konstantas said the area is home to kelp beds and sea grass, breeding grounds for a range of species. “It will have a devastating effect on the area,” he said. “I picked up a handful of sand and there was oil dripping through my hands.”
A spokeswoman from Caltex said the spill resulted only in “a really light sheen” on the surface of the water. A “huge downpour” had caused a drain to overflow, dispersing “a small amount of water containing oil” into Botany Bay, she said.
“This morning, Caltex, along with Sydney Ports Corporation, have inspected both the north and south side of Botany Bay by boat, and also by foot along the beach front,” Caltex said in a statement. “No odour or sheen was detected and all appears to now be clear.”
The Environment Protection Authority said it had staff on site on Tuesday to investigate and also described the pollution as a “sheen” rather than a spill.
“Stormwater from the site and from many other sources resulted in an oil sheen on the Bay.
“Bunding and stormwater treatment are key requirements which are built to a storm capacity,” said the EPA’s director of its metropolitan branch, Giselle Howard.
“Given the extreme weather conditions it is likely to be this capacity that has been exceeded but EPA will investigate this aspect once the incident is complete.”
Sydney Ports strongly denied that there had been any impact on fish and wildlife.
Malcolm Poole, chairman of the Recreational Fishing Alliance of NSW, said he has asked the fisheries arm of the NSW Department of Primary Industries to assess the impact on the area’s marine ecosystems.
Joe Garufi, another member of the South Sydney Amateur Fishing Association and a local resident, said a plume had stretched from the Kurnell oil wharf almost to beyond the heads before authorities responded.
“Then it was just four boats in total just running around on top of each other trying to disperse it,” Mr Garufi said. “No agent, no solvent, they just let it sit.”
“We were watching fish rolling on their bellies,” he said.
Another fisherman, Chris Anagnostou, said: “A simple shout-out to the recreational fishing community would have had 20 to 30 boats ready to help deploy a containment boom within hours. Why on earth would they not use every resource possible to contain the spill?”
“I understand accidents happen but a fail-safe procedure for such an occurrence should have been in place.”
with Peter Hannam
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