‘Churning in sea has caused oil blobs’

Staff Correspondent

MANGALORE: Padam Shekar Jha, Commander of the Coast Guard for the State, has claimed that the churning of the sea might have resulted in the blobs of a black tar-like substance surfacing along the coast here.

Speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of a two-day “Oil spill response workshop” held here on Thursday, Mr. Jha allayed the fears raised over the appearance of the black substance in the sea by describing it as an “insignificant development”.

Speculating that there was a connection between the appearance of the black substance in the sea and the time of the year Mr. Jha said that such “bituminous” substances had been appearing for the past few years during summer. The churning of the sea waters in the lead up to the monsoon could be the reason for these blobs surfacing in the coastline, he said.

“These substances might have settled on the ocean floor. When the sea turns choppy at this time of the year, the substance surfaces and is washed ashore,” he said and added that a similar phenomenon had been noticed in Goa. “In Goa the residual oil from barges and ships gets coagulated and settles at the bottom of the sea. When the sea becomes violent, the oil surfaces. There appears to be a textural similarity between the substances found in Goa and the one found here. Further laboratory tests can clear the doubts,” he said.

Environment advisor of the New Mangalore Port Trust (NMPT) S. Hamsa, however, said that the underwater currents would begin to flow towards the shore during peak summer months. The reverse flow of the currents might be bringing the oily substance ashore, she said.

Sadiq Ahmed, Chief Environment Officer, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB), said that the strong landward winds might be creating a churning in the sea, eventually leading to the shoring-up of the black substance. However, none of the officials could explain how the substance surfaced in a particular spot every year, near the Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (MRPL) effluent discharge pipeline at Chitrapura. Some officials, who are in-charge of identifying the mysterious substance, on the condition of anonymity, told The Hindu that the initial tests had confirmed a high degree of sulphate content in the substance.

The substance was from a petroleum end-product and not crude. The samples of the substance had been sent to the National Institute of Oceanography in Goa for further testing, they said. Mr. Jha said that the NMPT authorities were capable of handling the present crisis. The area where the substance had surfaced came under the purview of the port. The Coast Guard generally stepped in when the oil spill was more than 700 tonnes. The Coast Guard was the nodal agency for implementation of National Oil Spill Disaster Contingency Plan, he said and added that his office was responsible for every minor spill along the coast.

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