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A RIG holding 280 metric tonnes of fuel which ran aground near Lewis is now leaking, causing fears of a major oil spill, writes Monica Gibson.
The 17,000 tonne Transocean Winner got into trouble during severe weather at the weekend, running aground at the beach of Dalmore in the Carloway area. Local access areas and vantage points have been blocked off while attempts have been made to salvage the rig which continues to list and assess the damage.
Last night (Wednesday) Western Isles Council released a statement on behalf of the Western Isles Emergency Planning Co-ordinating Group (WIEPCG) confirming oil is now escaping from the rig.
A spokesman for WIEPCG said: ‘The preliminary visit onto the rig yesterday afternoon revealed some evidence that a number of the diesel storage tanks on the rig may have been breached and that is likely the cause of the low level of pollution detected on Monday afternoon. Any further damage to the rig can only be ascertained when further inspections are made as soon as the survey team is able to board the rig again.’
The WIEPCG stressed the comhairle, alongside the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), is monitoring any potential animal health issues.
He added: ‘We are continually seeking to ensure protection of the public’s safety and would strongly reiterate our advice to people to stay away from the area until such time as we advise.’
Reacting to the news Dr Richard Dixon from Friends of the Earth Scotland (FOES) commented: ‘Leaking diesel oil could create a serious problem for wildlife in such a sensitive area, which is often home to whales, dolphins and important seabirds. The local community is dependent on tourism and fishing, both of which would be badly impacted by a serious spill. Just seven miles west from the grounding site is the EU-protected Loch Roag coastal lagoons, which form a rare and valuable habitat of marine grasses, seaweeds and sponges.’
Since the incident occurred there have been increasing calls from MSP’s and environmentalists for the reinstatement of a second emergency towing vessel (ETV) in the North. FOES described the decision by the Scottish Government to remove the vessel in 2012 as a cost-cutting measure which will end up costing way more in the long run.
Mr Dixon added: ‘If the diesel oil leaks into the environment, the clamour for answers as to why such a risky trip was attempted will grow much louder. Why was the rig taking this dangerous route off the mainland in such a storm? How do we make sure that companies don’t repeat these mistakes?’