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    Pictures courtesy of Jim Watt.



                                                                                                    8th June 2011


     The Environmental Safety Group today submits a petition to the Chief Minister to present legitimate environmental and public health concerns resulting from the accident which took place at the Western Arm last week at the site of the Waste Oil Treatment Plant.

    Today, also at 6.30pm, environmental group, AGADEN, is holding a protest in Algeciras calling upon all politicians to address and prevent the ongoing problem of oil pollution in the Bay.

    Our petition wishes to highlights the following:-

    ●While our immediate thoughts at the time of the accident were with the injured parties and our frontline emergency services, we, along with many others,  were also extremely worried about the danger posed by the persistent raging and toxic fire to the community;

    ●ESG believes that if Gibraltar engages in high risk business such as ship to ship bunkering and waste oil processing, that it needs to step up investment in emergency response and environmental monitoring equipment – ensure best available technology is applied and the precautionary principle adhered to;

    ●We believe that the oil industry is incompatible with the tourist 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.;

    ●Despite the Plants relocation from Waterport Road, its activity has regularly affected air quality in the area and people’s quality of life;

    ●That far from recognising or containing the risk to environment and public safety  by this type of plant, we learn in today’s Chronicle that planning permission had been obtained by the company concerned to practically double its capacity to process waste oil material from outside of Gibraltar;

    ● A few years ago and soon after the Sort Plant as it was known then  had relocated to the Western Arm, the ESG were asked to take air samples in the area to determine the smells near the plant. The results as validated by an accredited laboratory revealed several chemicals present which, once identified, led to some modifications to the plant;

    ●In the past few weeks an increase in fumes pervading nearby residential areas had resulted in our corresponding with the Port and Environmental Agency with the ESG being told the origin of much of the smells in that zone were emanating from the waste oil treatment plant. We requested permission to visit the plant with Environmental Agency but this was not deemed possible.  A few days later, the explosion occurred.

     ●That an accident of this proportion needed to take place before our Government addresses any shortcoming of protocols or viability of locating such dirty industries, such as waste oil processing, so close to luxury liners and more importantly, to thousands of local residents, is highly regrettable;

    ●This accident vindicates many of the ESG’s concerns (as highlighted in our Wish list) which indicates the risks posed by oil related activities in Gibraltar which threaten our safety and the living environment;

    ●The clean up operation and oil spills now affecting the Bay are stark reminders of how oil pollution is a long term problem with lasting impacts on the marine environment and human  populations well beyond the time of any incident;

    ●That a cross border agreement as put forward under the Tripartite Dialogue to specifically address environmental and health issues of major proportions be progressed outside of sovereignty implications;

    ●We strongly welcome the statement issued by you/Govt last week that this serious incident has given you an opportunity of rethinking existing practices of processing waste oil material in Gibraltar and location and practice of other oil related activity. The ESG is in full support of this position.

    This petition is therefore intended to send a strong message to the Gibraltar Government that the ESG in campaigning for a clean and healthy environment sees this oil accident as a symptom of poorly controlled and conflicting activity in Gibraltar. We urge Government to evaluate the true benefits of the oil industry to the Gibraltar community, risks to the population and environmental degradation.

                                                    Henry Pinna                                                      Janet Howitt

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        Signed on behalf of the Environmental Safety Group on this day:  8th June 2011