Bunker fuel from abandoned coco mill leaks in Albay Gulf

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By Alfredo L. Vargas Jr.

LEGAZPI CITY (10-Jan-2013/PNA) – Bunker fuel from a storage tank abandoned for the past 20 years inside a coco mill that had ceased operation three years ago accidentally leaked to the waters of Albay Gulf at the northern part of this city Wednesday.

Acting on reports and subsequent requests for assistance by alerted coastal residents, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) immediately responded to the area and eventually contained the leak about four hours later.

DENR-EMB Bicol Director Robert Sheen said the horizontal pipe — 14-foot long and 12-inch in diameter — attached to the storage tank at the plant’s mini port lost balance and its tip fell into the water.

“The tidal motions pushed sea water inside the pipe and to the storage tank and the remaining fuel was carried in the back flow,” Sheen said.

The coco oil mill is located at Purok 1, Barangay Arimbay, this city. Its owner, Co Say immediately hired workers to assist in lifting the tip of the pipe higher than its usual position and corked the opening.

The fuel leak was noticed by coastal residents at around 9 a.m. and immediately alerted local disaster mitigation officials and concerned agencies.

Sheen revealed that according to standard operating procedures on cases of oil spill or leaks on seas, the first salvo of response should come from the PCG.

However, because the DENR-EMB is located in Barangay Rawis that is adjacent to Arimbay, he immediately fielded a team to investigate and assist in containing the leak.

A team from PCG Bicol District Office led by Chief Petty Officer Bonifacio Camacho arrived in the area at around 9:15 a.m. and was minutes later joined by the DENR-EMB personnel in fixing the pipe, containing the leak and taking water samples from at least three stations.

Laboratory analysis on water samples are expected to be finished within five days.

The other bunker fuel storage tanks inside the coco mill were also inspected by the DENR-EMB team.

“The other tanks’ control valves are still working although it had been unused for the past three years. Its pipelines, although already rusting, are far from developing a similar aberration,“ Sheen said.

It was learned that the involved storage tank had been ordered totally emptied and dismantled 20 years ago. The fuel supplier, Petron, and its sub-contracted firm failed to totally remove the storage facility.

Sheen called for a technical meeting with representatives from Petron and the sub-contractor before noon Wednesday and ordered the emptying and dismantling of the tank done within seven days. (PNA)

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