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Pollution incident affecting Wyre beaches

Tar ball Published Monday, 07 August 2017

In July there was an oil pollution incident which affected the Wyre coastline from Cleveleys through to Pilling.

A specialist clean up operation to remove the oil and tar balls washed up has now been completed. Over 650 bags (15 tonnes) of waste containing sand, pebbles and debris contaminated with oil have been removed from beaches in Cleveleys, Fleetwood and Over Wyre.

We are continuing to carry out regular inspections and monitoring along Wyre's coastline. This monitoring period, which lasts for 4 weeks, is due to end on Friday 25 August.

The beaches on the coast from Cleveleys to Fleetwood and Over Wyre remain open, however there have been isolated reports of trace contamination present in some areas.

We are advising people to be vigilant when on the beach, supervise children carefully and keep your dog under close control. If you see any further oil or tar deposits avoid all contact and report it to the council.

The Fleetwood to Knott End ferry service is operating again. Shellfish beds at Knott Spit and Sea Centre South in Knott End are closed as a result of the incident.

What is it?

The pollution appears as oil and tar balls. It is black and smells like diesel. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has confirmed following tests that it is the result of an oil spill from an off-shore oil storage installation in Liverpool Bay. HM Coastguard teams were deployed to the site and the MCA’s Counter Pollution and Salvage Branch is liaising with local authorities, the Environment Agency, Natural England, the Joint Nature Conservancy Committee, the Marine Management Organisation and the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning (OPRED) to ensure a co-ordinated response.

Where is it?

Reports so far include the pollution appearing on the beach at Bispham up to Cleveleys, at Fleetwood and Over Wyre. Blackpool Council is also checking the beaches further south down to Harrowside.

What is being done?

Cleaning teams from Wyre and Blackpool Councils are working with specialist oil pollution contractors, Braemer Howells, to clean the tar off the beach. Removal of this pollution is being undertaken with specialist contractors and as such, members of the public should not attempt to remove the pollution by themselves. The cleaning team should not be hampered in their removal of the pollution. As part of the removal, the cleaning teams will be wearing specialist equipment to remove the pollution. This is purely a precaution and people should not be alarmed when they see the cleaning teams. This cleaning could take several days to complete.

Can I go on the beach?

Members of the public can still go on the beach but should keep clear of the pollutants. You are advised not to touch, or pick up the pollutants.

Can I take my dog on the beach?

Similarly, dog owners are being advised to keep their dogs away from the pollutants. Given the summer, dogs are generally excluded from Cleveleys and Fleetwood beaches and between Harrowside and North Pier in Blackpool.

What should I do if my dog has come into contact with it?

The Veterinary Poisons Information Service have provided the following advice: We would recommend that dog walkers avoid beaches until clear up is complete. If walking in areas where material has washed up dogs should be walked on the lead. If owners suspect their dog has eaten some crude oil they should not attempt to make their dog sick and if concerned should seek advice from their vet. Owners should contact their vet if their dog is vomiting or coughing. If there is any oil on the skin it should be washed off promptly using a detergent such as shampoo or washing up liquid. If the dog has significant contamination of skin and hair owners should seek advice from their vet. 

In cleaning your pet, we advise wearing gloves and avoiding contact with your skin. It is very unlikely that anyone exposed to crude oil for a short period of time will have any long term health effects. If you touch the tar balls and get oil on the skin, remove affected clothing and wash with soap and water for 10 minutes. If you feel unwell seek medical attention.

What should I do if I’ve touched it?

The advice from Public Health England is that it is very unlikely that anyone exposed to crude oil for a short period of time will have any long term health effects. Additionally, during bathing there is an increased risk of ingestion of the waters. Short term exposure to skin may result in irritation so as a precaution members of the public are advised to avoid contact with the material. If you touch the tar balls and get oil on the skin, remove affected clothing and wash with soap and water for 10 minutes. If you feel unwell seek medical attention. The material may smell - the human nose is very sensitive to odour - however many substances that are perceived as odorous or smelly are usually present at levels at which there is no direct harmful effect.

Can I continue to fish?

Any individuals using the shoreline should avoid any contact with the material if they see any. If you touch the tar balls you should follow the above advice.

Anglers in the affected area should be safe to consume any catch as any hydrocarbons, including PAHs, are likely to be metabolised. The main risk would be taint, which is quality rather than safety. As such, it may taste unpleasant.

What is being done to protect marine wildlife?

An Environment Group has been established to support response organisations. The Environment Group consists of representatives from the Environment Agency, Natural England, Marine Management Organisation, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Public Health England, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Inshore Fisheries Conservation Agency, Food Standards Agency and Local Authorities. The group identifies wildlife and habitats that are vulnerable or particularly sensitive to the pollution and also to the response activities being carried out. Aerial surveillance flights from fixed wing aircraft and helicopter, as well as surveys on foot, are being conducted to determine the presence of any wildlife being affected by the incident, or at risk of becoming affected. The RSPCA have also been notified of this incident and are ready to provide a response to deal with oiled wildlife. 

What should I do if I see some?

First of all, avoid touching it. If you do spot any outside of the above mentioned areas then please contact your local council.

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