Archive for the Oil spill Category

Protesters force closure of Dalian chemical plant [People’s Daily]

Posted in Dalian, Liaoning Province, Natural disaster, Oil spill, Police, Pollution, Special Economic Zones on August 15, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

Although I didn’t turn up any evidence that chemicals leaked during the recent typhoon landing, people should know that Dalian has been rattled over the past year or so by seemingly continuous round of environmental, industrial and civic-related accidents, including a major oil spill. The contradictions of a city trying to play a dual role as a showcase beach resort and booming Special Economic Zone is stirring residents into major protest. – Zuo Shou

August 15, 2011

* Excerpted *

A chemical plant in Dalian in northeast China has been ordered to shut immediately after 12,000 residents took to the streets over concerns of potential toxic chemical leaks.

Dalian authorities yesterday also pledged to relocate the controversial Fujia Chemical Plant, in a statement issued just six hours after the protest began in the port city.

A small crowd gathered in front of government buildings at around 10am yesterday and quickly grew from there.

Protesters chanted “Fujia, get out!” and “Serve the people,” sang the national anthem and displayed banners printed with the phrases “We want to survive” and “We want a good environment.”

There were scuffles with police, although there were no reports of injuries. At one point, protesters threw bottles of mineral water at police who had tried to cordon off a section of a main road that passes near the square.

Before giving the order to shut the plant, Dalian’s Communist Party chief Tang Jun and Mayor Li Wancai had tried to appease the crowd by promising to move the plant, but protesters demanded a clear timetable for relocation.

The plant is a producer of paraxylene (PX), a carcinogenic petrochemical used to create raw materials for the production of polyester film and fabrics.

Calls to relocate the plant mounted last week after waves whipped up by tropical storm Muifa breached a dike built to protect the plant from floodwaters. Residents were concerned that a flood could damage the plant and cause it to release toxic chemicals.

The breached dike has been repaired and no chemical leaks have been reported, but demands for relocation still gathered steam. Calls for street protests rapidly circulated on the Internet…

Full article link: http://english.people.com.cn/90882/7568598.html

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Dalian’s oil-stained beaches are open but questions remain – after China’s all-time worst oil spill [Global Times]

Posted in China, Dalian, Environmental protection, Liaoning Province, Oil spill on July 16, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

Global Times | July 14, 2011

By Li Qian in Dalian

While tens of thousands of holidayers seek relief from the heat at the Golden Pebble Beach near Dalian, few seem to be aware that a year ago this seaside playground was covered by a thick film of crude oil.

Although a mammoth effort was undertaken to make it look like the spill never happened, there has yet to be a public accounting of the aftereffects of the environmental disaster.

On July 16 last year, pipes connected to a foreign oil tanker burst as its cargo was being offloaded, causing China’s worst oil spill. Docked at the Port of Dalian, Liaoning Province, the ship was delivering its load of crude to storage tanks owned by the China National Petroleum Corp(CNPC).

Local authorities said on July 29 last year that they had recovered 11,000 tons of crude, about 92 percent of the total that was spilled. Greenpeace and other independent environmental experts estimate more than 60,000 tons of oil may have leaked into the sea. Even the conservative official figure makes it China’s worst oil spill.

By comparison the infamous tanker Exxon Valdez spilled 35,000 tons of crude along the Alaskan coast in 1989.

*** A quick-fix solution ***

Dalian’s beaches and shoreline appear to have recovered but many believe the government has taken an out-of-sight-out-of-mind approach to the cleanup. Meanwhile hundreds of fisher families and aquafarmers have not yet learned if there will be long term effects on their livelihoods or what compensation they might receive.

A day after the spill began, the floating oil slick began washing up on Golden Pebble Beach, which is about 13 kilometers from the oil tanker’s berth. Although there are no official figures indicating how much crude washed up on the beach, media reports showed a beach-walker’s foot submerged in the gooey slick.

Government workers, soldiers, sailors and more than 3,000 local fishers were recruited for the massive cleanup operation.

The beach was partially reopened to tourists by August 2 last year. This August local officials are expecting 60,000 people a day to visit the beach.

After the initial, emergency cleanup the local government spent another 100 million yuan ($ 15 million) ridding the coastline of any telltale sign of the slick. An existing land reclamation project also provided a timely way of eliminating leftover crude as it continued to expand over the last year.

The quick-fix solution entailed dumping thousands of tons of sand on top of the contaminated beach.

For now the tactic appears to have worked. Officials say Golden Pebble Beach is now better than before the oil spill. “We transported 57,000 cubic meters of sand from other suburban beaches to reinforce the Golden Pebble Beach,” Man Feng, a tourism official with the beach’s management board, told the Global Times.

A number of tourists interviewed by the Global Times said they’ve seen clusters of floating red globs on the surface when they take a dip. A garbage collector on the beach said when a south wind blows she sees oil washed up on the beach.

*** Rated a 5A resort ***

The cover-up work on this city’s centerpiece beach was finished just before the start of the International Beach Festival in May this year and many tourists seem happy with the refreshed beach.

The city’s efforts have earned the Golden Pebble Beach a “5A Tourist Resort,” the highest national rating. “We were scored above 900 out of 1,000 by the National Tourism Administration. There are eight factors including transportation and environment in a tourist resort,” said Man.

Hiking along the northeast Dalian coastline it’s difficult to spot any trace of the oil spill.

Other non-tourist parts of the coastline also got the dump-and-hide treatment. A peninsula about six kilometers from where the tanker spilled part of its load was one of the hardest-hit areas last year. Local fishers said their local beach was covered with 80 centimeters of crude, “enough to drown a small child,” one of the villagers said with disgust.

After the initial cleanup, government workers piled two meters of sand, rocks and boulders on the oil-stained beach.

*** Concern over long-term effects ***

Many villagers wonder what will happen to the covered up crude in the future…

Concerns also remain about the recovery and cleanup of the floating oil slick. Cleanup crews skimmed thousands of barrels of crude off the water surface but chemical dispersants were also widely used.

Many local fishers said the dispersants caused the oil to sink, and while it’s out of sight it remains a potential threat. They were also concerned when chemicals washed on up shore.

Zhong Yu, an environmental expert with Greenpeace China, said the dispersant may cause further pollution. “The dissolved substances could be ingested by marine life and enter the food chain. When that happens, the impact of the oil spill is much greater.”

Zhong said the impact on the environment depends on the type of dispersant, but authorities have not revealed which chemicals were used.

“No one can completely eliminate the impact of an oil spill on the environment, and its influence usually lasts for many years. The government needs to continue to monitor the seawater, sediment and marine life to learn what damage has occurred,” Zhong told the Global Times.

*** Compensation still pending ***

The Dalian government has yet to announce promised compensation to the fishers and aquatic farmers who suffered losses last year. A man surnamed Ye, from Miaoshang village near Golden Pebble Beach, said 30 percent of his clams were killed by the oil slick and perhaps by the dispersants, which caused a loss of more than 300,000 yuan.

Villagers are concerned about the possible long-term impact the oil spill and the dispersants will have. Many local villagers interviewed by the Global Times expressed concern about the water quality.

“They grow smaller and slower than before,” said Peng Jian, a local fisher, referring to the seaweed and mollusks he farms.

Another villager surnamed Shao in Dadi village raises scallops and mussels, but he has had to halve his harvest because of collapsing prices. Many people in Dalian stopped eating seafood after the spill and the market has only begun to recover this year.

“If I harvest that amount again I’ll lose everything,” said Shao….

Many piles of equipment used in sea farming sit idle on the shore, as dozens of farmers in Dadi village said they have also cut production for the same reason Shao has.

While the farmers say the poor market is why they have reduced output, they also believe the seawater has “gone bad” even though it looks clean and oil-free.

*** Markets and harvests down ***

The harvest and market of sea cucumber, an important Chinese delicacy that used to flourish in the Dayao Bay, have also been cut in half. “This year no one wants sea cucumbers. The price is only about 140 yuan per kilo, half of what it was last year,” said Peng.

Villagers said the Dalian government has pledged to provide compensation after thousands of them petitioned the district and city governments last year. Their representatives even traveled to Beijing to make their case for compensations.

An official with the Dalian government press office who refused to give his name said they were waiting for a report from the State Council before working out a compensation plan.

The CNPC has not shown any willingness to compensate the villagers, some of whom were sickened during the initial cleanup. Some locals earned hundreds of thousands of yuan during the cleanup and some lost more than their health.

Liang Shuangying’s husband died during the recovery operation and she is now working as a caddie at a local golf resort.

“…[W]hat can I do except work and raise my children?” she said. “Life goes on.”

Edited by Zuo Shou

Article link: http://www.globaltimes.cn/NEWS/tabid/99/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/666231/Dalians-oil-stained-beaches-are-open-but-questions-remain.aspx

China needs zero tolerance for concealing major accidents – Bohai Bay oil spill reported 31 days after event [People’s Daily]

Posted in China, Corruption, Dalian, Journalism, Oil spill on July 10, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

July 8, 2011

The goal of “zero accidents” may be unachievable, but a policy of zero tolerance can certainly be imposed on the concealment or delay of reporting major accidents.

A recent oil spill polluted more than 840 square kilometers of first grade clean water in the Bohai Bay, an area almost the size of a city. The quality of water in the spill area is now at the worst level on China’s four-grade pollution scale.

The State Oceanic Administration released an investigative report on the preliminary impact of the oil leak from the Penglai 19-3 oilfield partially owned by the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, known as CNOOC, on July 5, 31 days after the oil spill was detected on June 4.

Although CNOOC said it did not conceal the accident, delay of more than one month has reflected its lack of social and environmental responsibility as well as its neglect of the public’s right to know and to supervise.

China’s law on marine environmental protection specifies that any major accident must be immediately reported to individuals and entities that may be subject to dangers. After the oil spill occurred, the CNOOC hid the truth from the media and the public and deleted Internet posts that exposed the accident. It failed to release information about the degree of pollution of the water or aquatic products as well as the negative effects of the spill on human health even when it was asked to, let alone taking the initiative to report it to local fishermen and the public.

Although we have repeatedly stressed the importance of security, it is very difficult to achieve “zero accidents” in many fields, including oil spills. Therefore, it is particularly important to report accidents in a timely manner. It is understandable if accidents are caused by “complicated reasons” or even an “unexpected” situation. However, concealing accidents is entirely a human factor, which is quite different in nature.

Providing timely information on emergencies and public events has basically become a consensus in recent years. However, some large-scale enterprises are still deficient in information disclosure, such as oil spills in the Dalian Xingang oil port and the pollution incident of the Zijin Mining Group in July 2010. There are very simple interest considerations behind the behavior of concealing accidents. First, the disclosure of accidents will cause the share price [to] decline, which will lead to huge direct losses. Second, the profit of concealing accidents or disguising a major accident as a minor one is very amazing.

“We cannot draw accurate conclusions in a relatively short period of time,” said related authorities when explaining the one-month “delay.” However, netizens disclosed the accident on microblogs as early as June 21, which aroused great concerns from all walks of life. As a result, rumors are widely reported. It is not conducive to clear the air and may intensify the situation if related management agencies blindly ignore rumors…

…In response to public opinion, many enterprises and even some government organs have adopted “ostrich or sheep flock tactics” over recent years. They buried their heads in the sand like an ostrich in face of public opinion in hopes to appear again over time.

When they had to face public opinions, they just told “young sheep” to make some explanations while keeping “senior sheep” behind the scene. Such tactics are simply irresponsible. In fact, these tactics serve no purpose in the information era and will only eventually imperil immediate public interests, affect long-term development of enterprises and damage invisible assets of government organs. It is worth reflecting on such negative consequences.

By He Yong from People’s Daily, and the article is translated by People’s Daily Online.

Article link: http://english.people.com.cn/90001/90780/7433972.html

“Barack ‘I’d kill for a peace prize’ Obama”, by William Blum [Anti-Empire Report / Killinghope.org]

Posted in Africa, Egypt, George W. Bush, Guantanamo Bay concentration camp, Israel, Libya, Nobel Peace Prize, Obama, Oil spill, Torture, US imperialism, USA, Wikileaks on March 29, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

March 28, 2011

Is anyone keeping count?

I am. Libya makes six.

Six countries that Barack H. Obama has waged war against in his 26 months in office. (To anyone who disputes that dropping bombs on a populated land is act of war, I would ask what they think of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.)

America’s first black president now invades Africa.

Is there anyone left who still thinks that Barack Obama is some kind of improvement over George W. Bush?

Probably two types still think so. 1) Those to whom color matters a lot; 2) Those who are very impressed by the ability to put together grammatically correct sentences.

It certainly can’t have much otherwise to do with intellect or intelligence.  Obama has said numerous things, which if uttered by Bush would have inspired lots of rolled eyeballs, snickers, and chuckling reports in the columns and broadcasts of mainstream media.  Like the one the president has repeated on a number of occasions when pressed to investigate Bush and Cheney for war crimes, along the lines of "I prefer to look forward rather than backwards".  Picture a defendant before a judge asking to be found innocent on such grounds.  It simply makes laws, law enforcement, crime, justice, and facts irrelevant.

There’s also the excuse given by Obama to not prosecute those engaged in torture: because they were following orders. Has this "educated" man never heard of the Nuremberg Trials, where this defense was summarily rejected?  Forever, it was assumed.

Just 18 days before the Gulf oil spill Obama said: "It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills. They are technologically very advanced." (Washington Post, May 27, 2010)  Picture George W. having said this, and the later reaction.

"All the forces that we’re seeing at work in Egypt are forces that naturally should be aligned with us, should be aligned with Israel," Obama said in early March.2  Imagine if Bush had implied this — that the Arab protesters in Egypt against a man receiving billions in US aid including the means to repress and torture them, should "naturally" be aligned with the United States and — God help us — Israel.

A week later, on March 10, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told a forum in Cambridge, Mass. that Wikileaks hero Bradley Manning’s treatment by the Defense Department in a Marine prison was "ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid."  The next day our "brainy" president was asked about Crowley’s comment.  Replied the Great Black Hope:  "I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards.  They assure me that they are."

Right, George.  I mean Barack.  Bush should have asked Donald Rumsfeld whether anyone in US custody was being tortured anywhere in the world. He could then have held a news conference like Obama did to announce the happy news — "No torture by America!" We would still be chortling at that one.

Obama closed his remark with: "I can’t go into details about some of their concerns, but some of this has to do with Pvt. Manning’s safety as well." 3

Ah yes, of course, Manning is being tortured for his own good.  Someone please remind me — Did Georgieboy ever stoop to using that particular absurdity to excuse prisoner hell at Guantanamo?

Is it that Barack Obama is not bothered by the insult to Bradley Manning’s human rights, the daily wearing away of this brave young man’s mental stability?

The answer to the question is No.  The president is not bothered by these things.

How do I know?  Because Barack Obama is not bothered by anything as long as he can exult in being the president of the United States, eat his hamburgers, and play his basketball.  Let me repeat once again what I first wrote in May 2009:

The problem, I’m increasingly afraid, is that the man doesn’t really believe strongly in anything, certainly not in controversial areas.  He learned a long time ago how to take positions that avoid controversy, how to express opinions without clearly taking sides, how to talk eloquently without actually saying anything, how to leave his listeners’ heads filled with stirring clichés, platitudes, and slogans. And it worked. Oh how it worked! What could happen now, having reached the presidency of the United States, to induce him to change his style?

Remember that in his own book, "The Audacity of Hope", Obama wrote: "I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views."

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Oil spill after cargo ship tilts in Dalian – PHOTO[People’s Daily]

Posted in China, Dalian, Environmental protection, Oil spill, Pollution on February 19, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

February 18, 2011

A Sierra Leone cargo ship tilts near Dalian Port in Dalian city, Northeast China’s Liaoning province, Feb 17, 2011. The ship leaned to one side by 30 degrees at the port while cargo was being loaded, causing an oil spill.  Four Chinese oil recovery vessels are cleaning up the contamination. [Photo/Xinhua]

Full photo article here

Chinese economic zones suffer ‘ecological damage’ [People’s Daily]

Posted in China, Dalian, Economy, Environmental protection, Oil spill, Special Economic Zones on September 24, 2010 by Zuo Shou / 左手

September 16, 2010

Five crucial economic zones in China’s 15 provinces are suffering environmental deterioration and ecological degradation due to the expansion of industrial projects, the Ministry of Environmental Protection warned on Wednesday.

The announcement came as the ministry finalizes an environmental impact review for development plans for these zones.

The report, the first of its kind, covers the following regions: the Pan-Bohai Bay area in North China, the western coast of the Taiwan Straits in East China, the Chengdu-Chongqing area in Southwest China, the Pan-Beibu Gulf Economic Zone in South China, and the middle and upper reaches of the Yellow River in Northwest China.

These five regions, involving 15 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, contribute 22 percent of the country’s economic growth each year, due to the booming heavy industries, such as petrochemical, energy, metallurgy, and equipment manufacturing.

Meanwhile, they are also vital habitats for some indigenous and precious plants, animals and aquatic organisms, with some areas already being ecologically fragile.

“Most of the five zones are already experiencing severe environmental deterioration and ecological degradation,” said Chen Jining, executive vice-president of Tsinghua University, who is also a leading author of the report.

For instance, overexploitation of underground water in the middle and upper reaches of the Yellow River, also a massive energy and chemical industry base, has resulted in a huge cone of depression underground, according to the report.

However, an analysis based on current development plans shows that the scale of heavy industries is still expanding at an alarming rate in these regions, said Chen.

“For instance, in 2015, the total oil refining capacity would stand at 156 percent of the 2007 level if you add up all the plans made by local governments,” he said.

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Dalian oil spill could taint environment for years [Global Times]

Posted in China, Dalian, Environmental disaster, Environmental protection, Oil spill on August 10, 2010 by Zuo Shou / 左手

August 4, 2010

Editor’s Note:

The full extent of the Dalian oil spill on July 16 is still unknown, but environmentalists have been claiming that as many as 60,000 tons of oil might have entered the sea.  What damage will it do to the local ecosystem?  Have the cleanup efforts been adequate in response?  Global Times (GT) reporter Xu Ming talked to Richard Steiner (Steiner), an Alaska-based marine conservation professor who traveled to Dalian to investigate the spill, on the impact of oil spills and advice of damage control and prevention.

GT: What factors do oil spills share?

Steiner: All oil spills are caused by a sequence of human errors and equipment failures.  Once we spill oil, anywhere around the world, the damage will be done.  It is very difficult to contain.

Normally the bigger the spill is, the greater the damage will be.  But that’s not always the case.  Some of the biggest oil spills have not been as damaging.  It depends on where the spill occurs, and what the environment is like.

If the environment is very clean, the damage could be very bad, such as the spill in Alaska.  It was a very clean environment and had abundant wildlife and fishery populations, so the oil spill became the most damaging ever, even though it was only the 35th largest on the list in size.  Oil spills can cause long-term damage that isn’t seen for years.

GT: What impact do oil spills have on the marine ecosystem, the overall environment and people’s health?

Steiner: The oil itself is very toxic, especially when fresh.  Marine animals or mammals can eat and ingest the oil on the food they are eating or get it in their eyes.  A lot of animals that eat things will inject the oil which will goes to their digest[ive] system and then to their blood and tissues.  Many animals will die quite quickly from this.  Some will only be injured and continue to live.  The injuries will manifest themselves in future years in things like brain injury, organ damage, heart tissue damage, liver damage and reproductive failure.

For instance, in the Alaska oil spill, hundreds of thousands of sea birds were killed the first year.  The next year, they didn’t lay their eggs in the nest, because they had ingested oil. So there was a complete reproductive failure the next year.  It can affect animal’s behavior, reproduction, feeding, and social organism.

Plants are very sensitive.  Small plants or microorganisms drifting around in the water can be killed by oil very quickly.  In the sea bottom are animals like crabs and scallops. When the oil gets to their settlement, they then can ingest them as well.

It is the same for human beings.  If you can smell oil, you are breathing it and getting it into your lungs.  Besides, if you get oil on your skin, it can be absorbed into the bloodstream.  People breathing it will suffer respiratory effects in the short term and possibly skin problems and cancers.

Generally, if the oil withers in one or two weeks, and people just breathe the oil for a short term, it is OK.  But children, pregnant women, and the elderly should certainly stay away from breathing the fumes, and everyone should avoid it if they can.

GT: According to your experience, what’s the potential damage the Dalian spill might bring to the local area?  What’re your recommendations for the follow-up work?

Steiner:  In the short term, I think it will cause serious disruption to fisheries and tourism in Dalian.  There also will be a health impact on people, especially on cleanup workers.

I think a lot of shellfish farms will lose their crops there due to the spill.  Even the ones, like scallops, that don’t die, would not be safe for human consumption.  They should wait till the government makes sure there is no hydrocarbon contamination to start their crop again.

It is the same for tourism.  Actually, anyone who makes a living from the sea is going to be impacted.  All of them should be compensated for their economic loss.

As to the long-term damage, whatever the marine ecosystem is there, it would be changed by the spill.  The population of some species will be reduced.

Recovery certainly will take years.  There will be oil on beaches and rocks for many years to come.  Other environmental damage depends on how resilient the marine ecosystem there is and how much damage has exactly been done.

I suggest the departments involved make scientific damage assessments and conduct programs to monitor the recovery of the ecosystem.

This is also the basis for submitting a legitimate claim for damages from the responsible companies.  Besides, since the remnant of dispersant in the ocean might spread to other sea areas, the government should track the traces of oil.

Last but not least, I think the air and water should be tested to make sure they are clean and ensure citizen’s health.  There should be no seafood harvested there unless the government has certified it is safe.

GT: How has the handling of the spill been so far?

Steiner: The cleanup workers and fishermen did a remarkable job.  But I think there should have been more sophisticated modern oil spill response equipment used to collect the oil without touching it.

And chemical dispersants should never be used in shallow water like that, because if there is not enough wind or waves, the toxic dispersant might sink to the seabed in the shallow water and stick there, which will cause more problems in the future, particularly around the mariculture zone like Dalian.

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