Crack in underwater pipeline causes oil spill in sea off Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu

Crude oil spill along Nagapattinam coast on March 3, 2023 | Video Credit: Special Arrangement

Residents in the coastal area complained of skin and eye irritation as the spill began to spread rapidly in the sea. Fishermen of Pattinamcherry hamlet staged protest demanding removal of the pipeline laid by Chennai Petroleum Corporation Limited in 2003.

March 03, 2023 06:23 pm | Updated March 16, 2023 05:08 pm IST - NAGAPATTINAM

A crack on an undersea pipeline, owned by the Chennai Petroleum Corporation Ltd. (CPCL), has resulted in an oil spill in the sea off the Nagapattinam coast.

Sources said the CPCL pumps crude oil, transported from ships from domestic sources or imported, through an underwater pipeline laid for a few kilometres in the sea from the Chidambaranar jetty to its refinery at Narimanam. The pipeline, which was laid in 2003, developed a crack on Thursday night near Pattinamcherry, a fishermen hamlet near here. The crack, which was said to be minor initially, developed further, spewing crude oil.

Fishermen of Pattinamcherry and adjoining villages, who noticed the spill in the sea on Friday morning, informed revenue and police officials. On information, the officials of CPCL and Oil Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) rushed to the spot to locate the crack. The Indian Coast Guard rushed two of its patrolling vessels to the Nagapattinam coast, besides carrying out an aerial survey of the extent of the oil spill.

The oil spill noticed off the Nagapattinam coast

The oil spill noticed off the Nagapattinam coast | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Some residents, especially children and elders, in the coastal area complained of skin and eye irritation as the spill began to spread rapidly in the sea along the coast. This triggered a protest at Pattinamcherry. The residents demanded that the CPCL remove the pipeline immediately. They claimed that many among them had turned sick and marine animals had died. Some of the protesters prevented the CPCL personnel from taking up the work to arrest the leak, saying the pipeline should no longer be in their area.

Revenue officials hold talks with the protesting fishermen at Pattinamcherry in Nagapattinam district on March 3, 2023. Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Revenue officials hold talks with the protesting fishermen at Pattinamcherry in Nagapattinam district on March 3, 2023. Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Senior revenue officials, who rushed to the spot, held talks with the protesters and urged them to withdraw the protest, pointing out that further delay in arresting the leakage would be more detrimental to the environment. The protesters then withdrew the protest and allowed the CPCL personnel to start the damage- control measures.

Collector A. Arun Thamburaj told The Hindu that the impact of the oil spill was being assessed. All agencies concerned had been apprised of the situation. The district administration would take all steps to arrest the leakage and restore normalcy as early as possible.

A senior official of CPCL said a boat might have hit the pipeline, causing the crack. The pipeline was not a “running line”, and only “holdup crude” was leaking out, he claimed.

The exact location of the crack had been identified. The choppy sea and strong waves had hampered the repairs. However, despite the odds, efforts were on to carry out the work. A bund around the crack had to be raised with sand bags to remove the sea water. The broken pipeline would be replaced with a new pipe. A team of experts from Chennai had been called in, the official said.

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