Drums of toxic chemical found

EIGHTY drums of a toxic chemical lost in the water alongside Felixstowe's biggest container terminal have been recovered – with none leaking.Divers were called in to recover the black metal 45-gallon barrels after the accident in which they were tipped into the harbour.

By Richard Cornwell

EIGHTY drums of a toxic chemical lost in the water alongside Felixstowe's biggest container terminal have been recovered - with none leaking.

Divers were called in to recover the black metal 45-gallon barrels after the accident in which they were tipped into the harbour.

The work, in poor visibility, was tortuously slow to free the drums, which were embedded in the silt, and bring them to the surface.


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Most days the divers were only able to recover about six drums because of the difficulties faced in the murky water alongside the quayside. The barrels were stuck fast in the silt and tides did not move them.

Port corporate affairs manager Paul Davey said so all the 80 sealed drums had now been successfully recovered.

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"They were all recovered successfully and intact and have now been shipped back and returned to the manufacturers in Holland so that they can deal with them," he said.

Investigations at the port into the accident revealed that it stemmed from a problem while a ship was being loaded.

A quayside gantry crane was loading a container onto a stack on a vessel berthed at Trinity Terminal.

It lowered the box into place, waited for the twist locks to click in to secure the box on the stack, and then - part of the loading procedure - gave a slight pull on the box to ensure it was secure.

However, at this point the stack lifted into the air - because containers below had not been secured correctly when loaded at a previous port of call.

Two boxes swung out and were left hanging precariously over the side of the ship. An operation was mounted to try to recover them and during this one of them fell into the water.

The doors of the container were damaged in the initial incident and when the box was lifted out of the water the drums rolled out.

The drums contained a heavy chemical called Suprasec 2525 - understood to be used to make the foam fillings for furniture.

It is a hazardous chemical but at the low end of the toxic scale. It is understood that if it comes into contact with water it turns into foam and would not have caused harm to the marine environment.

The Environment Agency was informed and monitored the situation throughout.

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