Toxic spill explanation
PORT chiefs today explained how 80 drums of a toxic chemical were lost in the water alongside Felixstowe's biggest container terminal.Divers are still working to recover the black metal 45-gallon barrels two weeks after the accident in which they were tipped into the harbour – as revealed in last night's Evening Star.
PORT chiefs today explained how 80 drums of a toxic chemical were lost in the water alongside Felixstowe's biggest container terminal.
Divers are still working to recover the black metal 45-gallon barrels two weeks after the accident in which they were tipped into the harbour – as revealed in last night's Evening Star.
The work, in poor visibility, has been tortuously slow to free the drums, which are embedded in the silt, and bring them to the surface.
Port corporate affairs manager Paul Davey said so far 63 of the sealed drums had successfully been recovered.
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He said investigations at the port into the accident had 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.
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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," said Mr Davey.
"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 harm the marine environment.
Divers and chemical experts advised that as the drums had sunk into the silt, they were unlikely to move and would not be taken by tides.
As there was no risk of the drums being swept out to sea and ending up on Felixstowe's beaches or moved upriver onto the Orwell's foreshore, details of the incident on October 21 were not made public.
The Health and Safety Executive said today that it would not be holding an investigation into the incident as it falls outside its remit. The Environment Agency had been informed and is monitoring the situation.
n What do you think? Should the public have been informed? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk