Dalian Oil Spill Clean Up Impressive, but Massive Long-term Challenges Remain

Press release - 2010-07-30
After ten days of fieldwork and investigation in Dalian, Greenpeace concludes that while the cleanup effort has been timely and generally effective, Dalian – and China – faces considerable problems with its preventative measures against oil spills. Moreover, the government should immediately commission a comprehensive risk assessment of China’s oil infrastructure, as well as develop and improve national and regional oil spill contingency plans. Most importantly, China must reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.

Site of the explosion and fire at Xingang Port Dalian, a major site for China's state reserves of petroleum

Dalian, China - After ten days of fieldwork and investigation in Dalian, Greenpeace concludes that while the cleanup effort has been timely and generally effective, Dalian - and China  - faces considerable problems with its preventative measures against oil spills. Moreover, the government should immediately commission a comprehensive risk assessment of China's oil infrastructure, as well as develop and improve national and regional oil spill contingency plans. Most importantly, China must reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.

"According to our estimates, about 60,000 tons of oil was recovered from the Dalian Gulf. This degree of effectiveness is astounding - it's a miracle created by the bare hands and straw mats of 20,000 fishermen," said Richard Steiner, a conservationist and oil expert invited from Alaska by Greenpeace to assess the Dalian oil spill.  Professor Steiner has extensive experience with oil spills, from the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 to his continuing work in the Gulf of Mexico.

Professor Steiner also notes that the government must provide basic safety gear for cleanup workers, erect prominent warnings and precautions for local residents and visitors, and track the seafood chain of custody to protect against crude oil's long-term health effects.

Read the full report of Dr. Steiner's findings and recommendations on the Dalian Oil Spill

"Yesterday, at Dalian's Jinshiqiao, we saw a fisherman suddenly develop a severe toxic reaction. He was rushed to the hospital for emergency treatment. He had been working on the cleanup for days on end," Greenpeace Climate Campaign Manager Yang Ailun said. "We've also observed many people swimming in the ocean, though the oil has not been completely cleaned up yet. It's of the utmost importance to ensure the safety of the fishermen, residents, and visitors."

For the remaining work to be done in Dalian, Greenpeace and Professor Steiner have formulated six recommendations, which will be provided to Dalian's city government as well as the relevant central government ministries. We suggest: an independent and complete inquiry into the details of the Dalian explosion and spill, full and transparent disclosure of the investigation results to the public, a comprehensive risk assessment of China's oil infrastructure, development of an oil spill response (contingency) plans, a comprehensive and scientific environmental damage assessment, and a plan to reduce reliance upon fossil fuels in the long term.

"Although the government estimates that 1,500 tons of oil was spilled after the accident, oil continued leaking for six days and all valves were not fully sealed until July 22. Thus, the quantity of oil actually leaked is much greater than 1,500 tons," said Yang Ailun. "It is critical to have an accurate and realistic assessment of the size of the spill for cleanup and environmental recovery work, as well as to draw conclusions and recommendations for the future."

Greenpeace also recommends that the government commissions as soon as possible a comprehensive risk assessment of China's oil infrastructure, including all oil terminals and tank farms, oil pipelines, oil tanker transit, and oil production facilities. This is the most effective way to minimize risks and upgrade China's entire oil infrastructure to the highest global standards.

Yang Ailun said in conclusion, "The accident may have already occurred, but it's not too early to take preventative measures for the future. China should immediately develop contingency plans and train workers. But heavy reliance on petroleum inevitably leads to oil spills, just as reliance on coal inevitably leads to coal-related accidents and pollution. China, as well as the world, must move away from fossil fuels."

Read the full report of Dr. Steiner's findings and recommendations on the Dalian Oil Spill

Other contacts:

Jason Li, Greenpeace Media Officer
+86 1391 105 0690, li.jiange [at] greenpeace [dot] org

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