Fuel spillage worse than feared
THE amount of fuel spilled in Monday night’s fatal tanker accident near Lismore is double the original estimate, sparking environmental concerns.
Emergency service workers at the scene yesterday confirmed almost 15,000 litres of fuel leaked after the accident on the Bruxner Highway, 7km south of Lismore, in which a 45-year-old Grafton man died.
NSW Fire Brigades duty commander Greg Lewis said about 7400 litres of diesel fuel and 7000 litres of unleaded petrol were lost from the petrol tanker.
This was because a second tank – originally believed to be intact – had also ruptured.
Firefighters finished their duties at the site yesterday with a final air analysis.
The situation is now being controlled by the RTA and the NSW Department ofEnvironment and Climate Change.
One lane of the highway remained closed last night.
Despite repeated attempts, The Northern Star could not contact a spokesperson for the DECC yesterday.
Reliance Petroleum managing director, David Birrell, said he was ‘shocked and concerned’ about the incident.
He also said he had spoken to the victim’s family.
“We hope the site can be cleaned up as quickly as possible,” he said.
“We are helping with the investigation and working with the Department of Environment and Climate Change.”
Dr David Lloyd, a senior lecturer with Southern Cross University’s School of Environmental Science and Management, said the spilled fuel still posed some danger to the surrounding environment.
“After the initial danger of explosions and burning, there is the volatile vapour, which is toxic to many organisms, particularly micro-organisms,” he said.
“The unleaded fuel is initially the most toxic because it is very volatile.
“The diesel will get into the soils a lot more.
“If it gets into the ground, it could kill off the base of the food chain.
“It’s good that this spill was not near any creeks.
“However, hydrocarbons will remain in the soils and after rain they will be flushed out, and that’s when we could have problems. You have got to move quickly with these sorts of spills.”
Dr Lloyd praised the work of the emergency teams on the ground.
“They’ve stopped it from getting into the waterways,” he said.
“They have also been removing much of the contaminated soil.
“That’s about all you can do. The response has been very quick.
“Of course, there will be some impact on the environment, but given the work that’s being done, that should be minimal.”