Despite the best-laid laws, lack of enforcement is a leading cause of preventable environmental hazards in the Middle East. Egypt regularly has oil spills in the Nile and the Red Sea because of lax regulations. This week’s kerosene spill off Lebanon’s eastern Mediterranean (already an apocalypse zone in places) was caused when a pipeline transfering kerosene to oil and gas companies leaked. Last year, the country’s environmental ministry found several companies in breach of environmental law, but The Daily Star reports that none were taken to account.
The tanker carrying the kerosene leaked just north of Beirut last Wednesday, in the coastal town of Dora. 25,000 liters of contaminated water had to be pumped out.
Environment Minister Mohammad Rahhal told the paper that the problem was contained before spreading further into the sea, thanks to joint efforts by the Civil Defense and army.
Oil workers at the scene confirmed that the secondary duct on a ship carrying 21,000 tons of kerosene started leaking as it was transferring fuel between petroleum companies Total and Medco.
Last year the environmental ministry requested oil companies in Lebanon to prove compliance of pollution laws, according to Rahhal. Investigators were also dispatched to inspect safety mechanisms.
Apart from Total, all of the companies investigated revealed breaches. Warnings were sent but Garbed Kazanjian from Greenpeace Mediterranean explains that the ministry’s lack of follow-up is partly to blame for continued accidents.
“They (oil companies) want to do things as cheaply as possible because there is no punishment,” he told The Daily Star. “It is not just limited to this accident. We are seeing leaks and other damage from lots of places on the coast. ”
Rahhal told the paper that oil companies will be required to pay for cleanup costs. Meanwhile, the head of the Association of Petroleum Importing Companies Maroun Shammas downplayed the seriousness of the link, and claimed that they are containing the leak.
:: Daily Star
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image via Thomko