Usually oil spills and leaks are brought under control fairly quickly, but one off the coast of Australia has been going on for an astounding 10 weeks.
The incident occurred at the West Atlas oil rig, located about 690 kilometres west of Darwin in the early hours of the morning on August 21. Of course, the company spin doctors and our government assured us it wasn’t such a big deal – nothing to see here, move along. These reassurances were made easier given the rig’s remote location.
However, others who visited the area soon after the announcement said that the spill was far greater than had originally been reported. The World Wide Fund for Nature recently surveyed the area and said the spill is having a significant impact on marine life.
By mid September, the leak still hadn’t been fixed and at that point became Australia’s third biggest spill ever. Around that time, the company responsible expected to have it under control within four weeks – so by mid-October.
Here we are in early November and not only is oil still leaking into the ocean at the rate of around 400 barrels (12,400 US gallons or 46,939 litres) every day; potentially hazardous dispersants continue to be used and the rig is also now on fire, spewing toxic smoke.
Only 4 days ago, the team brought in to deal with the leak said they were pleased with the progress made so far.
Millions of litres have been spilled to date, making it the worst oil disaster in Australia’s history.
In the middle of this saga, the company responsible for the leaking rig, PTTEP Australasia, was granted increased access to more Australian oilfields.
Perhaps our government should have held off on granting that permission until PTTEP Australasia cleans up this disaster, answers the many questions about the incident that are yet to be addressed and tells the public how they will prevent it from happening again.