Boat owners warned of pollution risk

The Environment Agency deals with oil spill in the Torridge estuary

The warning follows a successful clean up operation in the Estuary by the Environment Agency after fuel oil started leaking from a derelict dredger.

Members of the public had earlier reported seeing oil in the estuary downstream of Appledore shipyard. A ‘rainbow sheen’ was seen in the water over a distance of approximately 500 metres.

The pollution was traced to a derelict dredger moored on the foreshore near the boatyard. The 30-metre vessel was in poor condition and Agency officers found diesel leaking from one of two fuel tanks. They successfully recovered more than 100 gallons of diesel from the dredger using a device known as a ‘skimmer’ and mopped up fuel from the surrounding foreshore using absorbents.

It is thought the dredger was holed as a result of corrosion and fuel escaped as it filled with water on an incoming tide. The Harbour authority was alerted and the owner notified of the pollution. The Environment Agency will seek to recover the cost of the clean-up from the owner.


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All the recovered fuel was transferred to containers and taken away by the Agency for safe disposal.

‘Until recently we believe this vessel was afloat, but something occurred and water entered the hull causing a quantity of diesel to spill into the surrounding estuary,’ said Andrew Leyman for the Environment Agency.

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‘There are a number of similar derelict vessels on the Torridge estuary. Some have been purchased by owners who plan to turn them into houseboats.

‘People who buy these types of boat must be fully aware of their liabilities and ensure their vessels do not pose a pollution risk to the environment. Owners should check vessels and, if necessary, remove any surplus fuel if the craft is left on the foreshore for long periods of time,’ said Andrew Leyman.

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