Results of oil spill tests awaited

CLEANING EFFORT: Nineteen African penguins are currently at SAMREC for rehabilitation.  The first penguins were brought into SAMREC last Wednesday to be cleaned and fed. Picture: EUGENE COETZEE
CLEANING EFFORT: Nineteen African penguins are currently at SAMREC for rehabilitation. The first penguins were brought to SAMREC last Wednesday to be cleaned and fed. Picture: EUGENE COETZEE

Bad weather hampers further rescue of penguins

Oil samples sent to a Pretoria laboratory will determine if Algoa Bay was hit by two separate spills. The results of samples taken from birds, seawater and an oil tanker could be finalised tomorrow, according to the SA Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa).

The authority launched an investigation following last week’s oil spill in the bay.

Since Wednesday, more than 100 oil-soaked penguins have been washed and are being rehabilitated at two coastal centres in the Eastern Cape.

Samsa regional head Captain Nigel Campbell said while a tanker admitted responsibility for a 100-litre spill last Sunday, the oil had been immediately cleaned and no traces were later found later that day.

“So it was a complete surprise when these penguins started showing up covered in oil,” he said.

“We used aerial surveillance and found oil as far away as Maitlands.

“We collected the oil from the birds, from the water and from the oil tanker, and it was sent for analysis.”

Pictures were also sent to experts in London, who believe it may be two separate incidents.

“However, our lab results will conclusively prove this.”

Campbell said it was possible that a vessel passing Port Elizabeth may have pumped its slops into the sea, which is illegal.

“Unfortunately, if this is true, it will be impossible to identify which vessel is responsible.

“No one will admit to this and about 300 ships pass Port Elizabeth every day.

“We no longer have aerial patrols. This means [the government] will have to clean up, which will be costly.”

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