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    The ESG very much welcomes the Chief Minister’s comments last week on Radio Gibraltar and GBC on the viability of the waste oil treatment plant in Gibraltar. This follows our belief that the oil industry is incompatible with the tourism industry in Gibraltar due to our very small size and our inability to have these located at safe distances away from residential areas/schools/hospital/ships/aircraft/etc
    Gibraltar is physically too small to safely locate oil processing plants or oil storage tanks or other oil related industries at a safe distance from residential areas as shown by the plant explosion where we were very lucky with wind direction and the fact that only one of the tanks caught fire. The explosive and flammable nature of the products handled by this industry is incompatible with residential areas and they cannot be physically situated far enough from these to guarantee safety in the event of an accident.

    The consequences of an accident in these industries are far reaching and long lasting with regards to oil pollution and their effects on marine ecosystems and human populations as well as tourism and other leisure industries. The effects of this incident are being felt in Gibraltar as well as the entire bay and the Spanish coastline even though the actual fire was luckily contained within the installation.
    The general public should also be aware that even when operating normally this oil processing plant creates huge problems for local residents. We were informed by the Environmental Agency approximately a week before the explosion that the waste treatment plant was in fact the source of the noxious fumes that had recently and regularly been affecting many residents in Gibraltar – dependent on wind conditions. Evidently fumes have not been detected or reported to the ESG since the explosion which confirms our conviction that the quality of life for Gibraltar residents was being adversely affected even by the normal operation of this installation.
    Given the very real risks to lives and to our environment and to our quality of life in Gibraltar we totally agree with the Chief Ministers statement that serious consideration has to be given to operate waste collection as is done in other ports:  that is purely collection and storage as per EU directives and then shipment on to treatment elsewhere where it can be safely processed. We trust that he will make the necessary moves to allow the decommissioning and dismantling of the waste treatment plant and the clean up of its site as soon as possible.

    NEW: Today’s oil pollution seen lapping at the seafront (near Europlaza) is a reminder of how oil hangs around long after any incident has occurred also causing a smell nuisance in the area. An eye witness account informed the ESG of terrible smells in the area this morning.

    NEWS FLASH  Since this press release was issued the ESG has rec’d several reports of noxious smells in the area possibly linked to the sudden and heavy rains and flushing of damaged tanks.


    ESG Reacts to Major Port Fire 1st Jun 2011


    The ESG believes Gibraltar needs to take on board lessons from yesterday’s major fire at Western Arm where Nature Port Reception Facility (NPRF) Plant, previously known as SLOP Oil, then Sort Oil, blazed for over 15 hours producing a toxic plume which for the main, was fortunately blown away from residential areas. This is a real blessing. Had the wind blown towards the town area the consequences could have been very different and impacts even more widely felt.

    We would like to thank our emergency services for their incredible efforts in handling the incident. We would also expect that given the scale of oil related activity locally that best possible resources would be available to the services and will wait to hear the official incident report before commenting further on this.

    It is clear to us, however, that all fuel activity whether land or sea based in Gibraltar requires that best practice is applied and the precautionary principle adhered to. However, even with these in place, it is still difficult to provide sufficient safety to the community due to the proximity of such activity to residential areas. This was highlighted most clearly during yesterday’s worrying incident.

    The ESG would like to see a future Gibraltar less reliant on fuel related economy and based on more sustainable activity for our own benefit and have included such concerns in our published “Wish List 2011” which can be read at www.esg-gib.net


    Contd/.. for info:

    In the context of the major fire we would like to highlight the following:

    1)     Planning issues are at stake here with inappropriate location of industry and residential areas resulting in conflict; berthing cruise liners next to industry is also a serious problem;

    2)     Fuel business in Gibraltar seems to be expanding in every direction even though this represents an associated risk potential – for example: Govt support for possible East Side Bunkering –and – the Nature Oil Treatment Plant planning to import and process waste oil from Ceuta and Malta;

    3)     Ongoing activity at the plant has been impacting the nearby residential areas off and on for a number of years now due to noxious smells. Recent weeks saw a spike in complaints and the ESG was in regular contact with both the Port and the Environmental Agency (EA). Indeed having been informed by the EA that the recent increase in fumes was linked to the Oil treatment Plant led us to request permission to accompany the agency on one of its now regular inspections. This was refused.

    4)     We are concerned that air pollution from the major fire could have had serious adverse effects on people. We must remember that the tanks did not contain pure oil, but waste oil and other chemical waste. The ESG has previously taken air samples in the area and knows this for a fact. Therefore, the persistent, toxic plume containing several chemicals could have provoked widespread respiratory problems had it penetrated the nearby estates. We were told this was a potential concern.

    5)     Marine pollution clearly impacts on wildlife but also on our ability to extract seawater via our water intakes, essential for potable water.

    6)     The rapid manner in which this incident developed, which affected many hundreds of people in the frontline, illustrates how widespread the impacts of such an accident can be. Also saw airport closed for considerable time.

    7)     Finally, the ESG would like to emphasise the need to ensure that sufficient stocks of foam are stocked in Gibraltar to address any future oil related fire, be it land based or out at sea as this is clearly vital in safely extinguishing such dangerous fires.



    Photo courtesy T Finlayson

    In what has shocked the Gibraltar community a tank at the Waste Oil processing plant based at the Western Arm yesterday exploded when apparently being worked on by a contractor.

    The immediate impacts from the explosion were felt mainly by those closest to the plant, ie the workmen and businesses located nearby, but also a cruise liner was berthed alongside and felt the force of the explosion.

    Since then, (since  3.30pm on the 31st may), fires have raged at the plant with a second tank igniting and the ever present threat of this continuing to spread. Nevertheless there is a form of containment which should prevent the worst of this raging fire from spreading beyond the fenceline.

    Of course, at present, local residents and even some in nearby Spain, are beginning to complain about the toxic smoke reaching their homes and finding it difficult to breathe easily. The advice from the authorities is to stay put, shut your doors and windows but this will not eliminate discomfort which many will experience in breathing in this air.

    Please read ESG Press Release Wednesday afternoon with a full statement on this issue.