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Grace Fu reports progress in oil spill cleanup: Rock bund cleaning underway

Image Credits: UnsplashImage Credits: Unsplash
  • Significant progress has been made in the initial phase of the oil spill cleanup, with 550 tonnes of oil-soaked sand and debris removed.
  • The next phase focuses on the challenging task of cleaning rock bunds, requiring specialized resources and equipment.
  • Long-term monitoring of biodiversity and water quality is ongoing to ensure the safety and restoration of affected areas.

The recent oil spill in Singapore has prompted an extensive cleanup operation, with significant progress reported by Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, Grace Fu. The focus has now shifted to the challenging task of cleaning rock bunds, a critical step in restoring the affected coastal areas.

Initial Response and Progress

The oil spill, which occurred on June 14, resulted from a collision between a Netherlands-flagged dredger and a Singapore-flagged bunker vessel. The spill affected several beaches, including Sentosa, East Coast Park, and Labrador Nature Reserve. Over 700 personnel from various agencies, including the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) and the National Environment Agency (NEA), have been deployed for the cleanup operations.

Grace Fu highlighted the significant progress made in the initial phase, which involved removing oil slicks and contaminated sand from the beaches. "About 550 tonnes of oil-soaked sand and debris from the affected beaches have been removed," she stated. More than 3,400 meters of booms have been deployed to prevent further contamination.

The Challenge of Rock Bund Cleaning

The next phase of the cleanup focuses on the more complex task of cleaning rock bunds and other hard-to-reach areas. Rock bunds, which are coastal structures made of large rocks, present a unique challenge due to their uneven surfaces and the oil trapped in crevices. "Oil that has slipped into the boulder crevices needs to be thoroughly flushed out," Grace Fu explained.

This phase will involve specialized resources and equipment to ensure that the cleaning is done effectively while minimizing the risk of re-pollution. The Singapore Civil Defence Force has deployed a Rapid Response Fire Vessel to support the cleaning operations at Siloso Beach.

Environmental and Safety Considerations

The cleanup operations are being conducted with careful consideration of environmental and safety factors. The government is mindful of the need to protect biodiversity-sensitive areas and ensure the safety of workers navigating the slippery and uneven terrain of the rock bunds. "We are working with oil spill consultants to deploy the most effective methods for cleaning while minimizing contamination to surrounding areas," the MPA stated in a joint release.

Long-Term Monitoring and Future Steps

The authorities are also monitoring the long-term impacts of the oil spill on biodiversity and water quality. Even after the beaches are cleaned and reopened, swimming and water activities will only resume once the water quality is deemed safe. Grace Fu emphasized the dynamic nature of the oil spill situation, noting that some oil remains dispersed within the water column and could resurface, affecting other areas.

The cleanup of more heavily impacted areas, such as Tanjong and Palawan beaches, is expected to take around three months. For less affected areas, like Siloso Beach and certain stretches of East Coast Park, the cleanup is anticipated to be completed earlier.

The oil spill cleanup in Singapore is a testament to the coordinated efforts of various agencies and the resilience of the community. As the focus shifts to the more challenging task of rock bund cleaning, the commitment to restoring the affected areas and protecting the environment remains unwavering. The progress made so far is encouraging, and the continued efforts will ensure that Singapore's coastlines are restored to their pristine condition.

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