$500k fine or jail for oil spill

Thursday October 17, 2019 Written by Published in Environment
Ports Authority crew attend to the oil spillage at Avatiu harbour. 19092522 Ports Authority crew attend to the oil spillage at Avatiu harbour. 19092522

Fuel company Pacific Energy has built concrete casings around the exposed fuel pipeline by Avatiu harbour, to lessen the risk of another leak.

It comes as authorities investigate who was at fault in this month’s big diesel lead into the harbour, with potential fines of up to half a million dollars.

Pacific said the pipeline had been subjected to vibration from above-ground activity, because it was right by the main road.

The pipeline had been repaired by certified welders, and the concrete casement would provide added protection throughout the exposed section.

The pipe is cathodic-protected, and they are having that tested, as well as having the pipeline pressure tested to IANZS standard.

“All underground pipeline will experience corrosion and the measures we have in place are designed to reduce the rate of corrosion.”

The Ports Authority is conducting its own independent investigation into the fuel spillage, said general manager Nooroa Tou.

The Authority would seek legal advice and direction from the Ports solicitor about pollution caused by the fuel leak into the harbour. So far, there had been no assessment report completed about the impacts of the spill on marine life, or the health of the residents in the area.

However, all relevant government agencies from the Ministry of Health, National Environment Service, Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Marine Resources to the Ports Authority were working together to address the leak. They have been joined at a daily toolbox meeting by Pacific Energy, Toa Petroleum, and contractor T & M Heather Ltd, to plan the day’s work.

Reinstatement of the excavated area is planned to commence today.

The Ministry of Transport, which enforces the Marine Pollution Act, has started its investigation into the oil spill.

The 1998 Act says “no oil or any pollutant shall be discharged or allowed to escape from a vessel or platform into Cook Islands waters”.

It says the person or company responsible may be liable for a fine of up to $500,000, or two years’ imprisonment. They are also liable for the entire cost of the clean-up operation, to restore the environment to its original condition.

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