Fuel remnants leak into river
A BP fuel spill from a recent truck accident has not been sufficiently cleaned up and is now leaking into the Northern Rivers river system due to recent rain.
An investigation by The Northern Star into the clean-up that followed the accident has shown a creek with an oily substance on the surface and a strong odour is flowing into a tributary of the Wilsons River almost two weeks after the 15,000-litre spill.
The accident occurred on June 15 on the Bruxner Highway, 7km south of Lismore when a truckslid off the road, rolling down an embankment on to private property, spilling thousands of litres on its way and killing the driver.
Ann Love was the first to call triple-0 when she heard the truck crash and roll onto her South Gundurimba property.
Despite effort by Reliance Petroleum – a BP subsidiary – to clean up the fuel spill, Mrs Love and her husband Graeme have watched recent rain wash contaminated soil left by Reliance Petroleum into a creek through their property and into the nearby Pelican Creek.
Pelican Creek links up with the Wilsons River, the lifeblood of the Northern Rivers, Richmond River County Council said.
Mrs Love believes this week's rainfall has pushed contaminants through the river system.
“There were all sorts of things that weren't adding up,” Mrs Love said.
“They were digging up the drain with the contaminants and putting it on our land until we said something about it, and they began to put it up the side of the embankment.”
The RTA, the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change, and Lismore City Council were also involved in the clean-up process.
But the Loves are dissatisfied with the clean-up job which finished on Tuesday, as they look at contaminated soil dumped on a nearby embankment that has seeped into the creek.
“I have called it ‘rainbow gully' because it is the colour of the rainbow on top from the fuel,” Mrs Love said.
“Since the rain the last couple of days it is running quite rapidly.
“This is supposed to be what we feed our cattle on. What if they go back to feeding on that grass and we try to sell them and we can't because they are contaminated?”
Lismore City Council corporate services manager Simon Adcock said there was a boom in the creek to stop contaminants flowing into Pelican Creek.
“There is a boom in place in the creek just in case any additional seepage is picked up, but this is as a precaution,” Mr Adcock said.
“We will do an inspection on Monday. We are taking this very seriously, which is why we have done such a huge clean-up of the site.
“We will be in contact with them (Reliance Petroleum) moving forward to make sure we continue to manage the environmental impacts of that site.”
Mrs Love confirmed the presence of a boom, but said contaminated water was going around it and further downstream.
Once the contaminants reach the river system Dr David Lloyd, a senior lecturer from Southern Cross University School of Environmental Science and Management, predicts the toxins will affect wildlife and seafood.
“It depends on how diluted the contamination is and how much has gone in, but it will certainly have an impact on the fish of the river system,” he said.
“Over time we are going to get a build-up and anything coming to the surface to breed will get a coating of oil. Downstream you are going to get tainting of seafood.
“It is slowly poisoning as it is going downstream and as the river goes up and down, oil on the surface will form on the shoreline killing on a higher zone. It doesn't take much to have an impact like that.”
The speed limit on the road where the truck crash and subsequent fuel spill occurred has been temporarily reduced from 100km/h to 80 by the RTA.