Fri, Apr 01, 2016 - Page 4 News List

Oil spill may have spread to Keelung; fish test ‘safe’

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

A handout photograph released by the Environmental Protection Administration shows workers cleaning up oil from the grounded container ship TS Taipei on the shore of Shimen District in New Taipei City on Wednesday. About 400 workers collected 3,400 liters of oil and two tonnes of garbage from the sea.

Photo: EPA

Oil pollution caused by a grounded ship in New Taipei City’s Shimen District (石門) might have spread to Keelung, while the Fisheries Agency sought to reassure the public that the spill had not affected local aquatic products.

Oil was found floating on waters near the water inlet of the Hsieh-ho Power Plant in Keelung, about 30km from Shimen where a vessel owned by TS Lines Co ran aground on March 10, while black, muddy substances were seen and recovered from the sea.

The Keelung Bureau of Environmental Protection said the plant’s operation was unaffected, although it suspected that oil had spread from the grounded ship. The bureau has deployed oil booms around waters near the plant and is closely monitoring the situation to prevent pollution from spreading to nearby fishing harbors.

Meanwhile, the Fisheries Agency said that aquatic products from the area are safe.

The agency said it had tested fish catch from 18 fishing boats operating in New Taipei City’s Tamsui (淡水), Jinshan (金山) and Wanli (萬里) districts, as well as Keelung City, and found no irregularities.

Sixty fish of 18 different species were sampled on Tuesday and Wednesday, and they all passed sensory evaluation, the agency said.

A panel of three assessors visually checked whether the body, eyes and gills of a sample were tainted by crude oil; the whole fish, including scales and visceras, was later steam cooked for 15 minutes to see if there was any foul odor, and no irregularity was detected, the agency said.

The test came amid public concern over the impact of the oil spill on fish, as the number of visitors at local fish markets has dropped significantly following the incident.

Agency Deputy Director-General Huang Hung-yan (黃鴻燕) said substances leaking from the ship were only crude oil and lubricating oil, and no chemicals were spilled, so a sensory test would suffice to determine whether fish were polluted.

“While it is impossible to halt fishing in the area, fishermen have avoided waters where the ship ran aground, so there should not be any fishery products from the polluted area on the market. Products from the Shimen area account for less than 10 percent of Taipei’s fishery market, so people can rest assured that all fish on the market are safe,” Huang said.

Judging from the fish catch of Fuji Fishing Harbor in Shimen last month, regional fishery resources remained stable, but the agency has formed a taskforce to assess potential ecological damage caused by the pollution and seek compensation from TS Lines.

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