Chemicals flow into inlet
A HIGHLY toxic chemical is likely to have polluted Trinity Inlet when a malfunction caused by ants led to more than 30,000 litres of water containing fire-fighting foam being released at a fuel terminal, a report says.
At 6am on January 28, the firefighting deluge boom at the BP fuel terminal at the corner of Kenny and Draper streets, Portsmith, was accidentally activated for about one hour, during which up to 31,000 litres of water containing fluorinated foam was released.
"While some of the water was contained on-site and disposed of, it appears an unknown quantity has entered Trinity Inlet as stormwater," EHP executive director Rob Lawrence said.
"Water and sediment samples have been taken for laboratory analysis and the department's investigation is continuing."
The BP staff member who discovered the release of foam immediately alerted authorities.
The fuel company has launched an internal investigation into the incident.
An EHP investigation report obtained by The Weekend Post classes the incident as being of "very high severity".
"It is highly likely that contaminated waters have been discharged into Trinity Inlet," it says.
"The fire-fighting foam is a fluorinated ... foam and is considered to be highly toxic."
Investigators also fear tidal movements could have moved the substance, which is water soluble for a lengthy time, out to sea.
A nest of ants is believed to have triggered an electrical fault, causing the activation of the fire-fighting deluge system.
The report says no visual presence of foam or fish deaths in Trinity Inlet have been reported.
If found negligent, BP Australia faces fines or prosecution, depending on the harm recorded.Pollution incidents can be reported to EHP on 1300 130 372.
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