Tons of palm oil by-prod­uct spills into Padang wa­ters

The Jakarta Post - - FRONT PAGE - Sy­ofi­ardi Bachyul Jb

(CD) At least 50 tons of palm oil by-prod­uct spilled into the wa­ters of Teluk Bayur in Padang, West Su­ma­tra, on Tues­day af­ter a pipe rup­tured on a tank be­long­ing to pri­vate palm oil re­fin­ery com­pany PT Wira Inno Mas.

As con­cerns grow over the in­ci­dent’s im­pact on the sur­round­ing en­vi­ron­ment, 50 Navy per­son­nel from Navy Head­quar­ters II Padang and of­fi­cials from sta­te­owned port op­er­a­tor PT Pelindo II in Teluk Bayur have scram­bled to as­sist Wira Inno Mas in its clean-up ef­forts.

The spillage of Palm Fatty Acid Dis­til­late (PFAD), a lower-value by-prod­uct from the re­fin­ing of ed­i­ble palm oil, came from a leak in a tank that con­tained 750 tons of PFAD, about a quar­ter of the tank’s 3,000-ton ca­pac­ity.

“As our of­fi­cers in­spected the tanks, they sud­denly heard the sound of some­thing break­ing and wa­ter flow­ing,” Wira Inno Mas op­er­a­tions man­ager Hen­dra Leo said on Fri­day.

“Upon in­ves­ti­gat­ing the noise, they found a leak in one of the tanks,” he added.

The com­pany im­me­di­ately de­clared an emer­gency and launched mit­i­ga­tion ef­forts to ad­dress the sit­u­a­tion.

Some 500 tons of PFAD in­side the dam­aged tank have so far been trans­ferred to an­other stor­age fa­cil­ity, and the 200 tons con­tained by a bund wall and gut­ter have been si­phoned with pumps, ac­cord­ing to Hen­dra.

The com­pany has also in­stalled a tem­po­rary float­ing bar­rier — known as a con­tain­ment boom — on the wa­ters to con­tain the spill, and im­me­di­ate rented 16 boats from lo­cal fish­er­men to gather or trans­fer the spilled PFAD to a nearby basin owned by Pelindo II.

The na­ture of PFAD, which eas­ily freezes when ex­posed to air and floats on wa­ter, has helped in mit­i­gat­ing the spill, the com­pany claimed.

“We have col­lected 30 tons of spillage con­tained in the oil boom. We are also do­ing our best to col­lect the re­main­ing 20 tons,” Hen­dra said.

Fol­low­ing the in­ci­dent, the com­pany halted 50 per­cent of its ac­tiv­i­ties and is still cal­cu­lat­ing its losses.

It is also in­ves­ti­gat­ing the cause of the leak and is mulling a plan to in­spect the con­di­tion of all of its tanks to as­cer­tain whether or not the leak was caused by the two earth­quakes, mea­sur­ing 6 and 4.2 on the Richter scale, that hit Padang in the past two months.

The West Su­ma­tra Ma­rine Re­sources and Fish­eries Agency im­me­di­ately de­ployed a team to as­sess the in­ci­dent’s im­pact on the area’s ma­rine ecosys­tem.

“From our ini­tial ob­ser­va­tion, we found that about 2 hectares of ocean sur­face is af­fected [by the leak],” said agency head Yos­meri.

“How­ever, we have yet to as­cer­tain the ex­act dam­age [caused by the in­ci­dent] as our team is still gath­er­ing data.”

En­vi­ron­men­tal group In­done­sian Fo­rum for the En­vi­ron­ment’s (Walhi) West Su­ma­tra of­fice wasted no time in call­ing on the pro­vin­cial ad­min­is­tra­tion to pro­vide de­tails of the ac­ci­dent, and has ac­cused Wira Inno Mas of neg­li­gence.

“The West Su­ma­tra ad­min­is­tra­tion needs to act sternly in this case by eval­u­at­ing the com­pany’s en­vi­ron­men­tal per­mit,” said Us­laini, head of Wahli’s West Su­ma­tra chap­ter.

He also urged lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to con­duct an en­vi­ron­men­tal au­dit for a com­pre­hen­sive map of the im­pact of the spill.

Ar­guably the coun­try’s largest case of ma­rine pol­lu­tion oc­curred in 2009 fol­low­ing an ex­plo­sion at the Mon­tara oil and gas field in the Ti­mor Sea.

The in­ci­dent caused an oil spill that went on for 74 days, grossly im­pact­ing the area’s ma­rine re­sources and the liveli­hoods of hun­dreds of fish­er­men from East Nusa Teng­gara (NTT).

The rig be­longed to Thai­land­based oil and gas com­pany PTTEP Aus­trala­sia.

In May this year, the gov­ern­ment fi­nally filed a land­mark law­suit against the com­pany, seek­ing Rp 27.5 tril­lion (US$ 2 bil­lion) in com­pen­sa­tion.

Palm Fatty Acid Destil­late (PFAD) has spilled into Teluk Bayur The rup­tured tank con­tained 750 tons of PFAD

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