Oil spill at Warrenpoint should be taken as a timely warning

Cllr Mark Dearey
Following an oil spill last week in Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland, questions have been raised about how prepared Louth are for a major incident of this kind occuring in the future.

Following an oil spill last week in Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland, questions have been raised about how prepared Louth are for a major incident of this kind occuring in the future.

While Louth County Council’s response was rapid, the authority did not learn of the spill at Warrenpoint until 24 hours after the incident.

It is thought that roughly 100 to 150 litres of oil was spilled into the habour.

The incident occurred on the 22nd of October when what was described as marine fuel was detected on the surface of the water beside a vessel. According to the Warrenpoint Harbour Authority a full team of employees trained in oil spill response was immediately put in place and the area around the ship was secured and oil spill booms and absorbent pads were deployed

However Warrenpoint Harbour’s slow response in informing their Southern colleague about the spill was criticised at a meeting of the Dundalk Municipal Council this week.

Green Party Councillor Mark Dearey was particularly critical of the delay in communication between two bodies.

“I only became aware of the incident when it was reported in the Belfast Telegraph,” Cllr Dearey told his fellow councillors this week. “The amount that spilt was releatively little but it was very damaging.”

The Louth coast was not badly hit by the spill, though a small stretch of shoreline was effected at Cornamucklagh.

“From what I understand 25 bags of contaminated seawee where bagged on the Louth shoreline.”

“We need to learn the lesson from this incident. Also as a council we need to insinuate ourselves into the review process of this incident. Whatver happens, Louth County Council has to be debriefed on this incident.”

This is not the first incident of nature from Warrenpoint Harbour.

Last year there was a toxic gas leak from a ship that saw the area immediately around the docks evacuated.

“The potential impact this could have is massive. A shellfishery in the North had to be closed, and you obviously would not want a similiar situation to occur here in future, if a more major emergency occured.”

Fellow Green Party Cllr Marianne Butler concurred with Cllr Dearey’s comments: “This could clearly have been handled better, with better co-ordination between the two local authorities, especially on the Northern side.”

Louth County Council said for their part, they reacted as qucikly as possible.

Director of Services, Frank Pentony said he was in London when he got the call regarding the spill.

This week there was another incident at Warrenpoint Harbour, in which a cargo vessell went on fire.

The incident occured due to a fire on board a ship carrying what was described as animal feed, which can go on fire when damp.