Environmental experts were worried on Thursday that yet another polluting spill into the river that divides the west and east sides of Oslo would harm birds and other wildlife. Emergency crews were trying to contain the worst damage after energy firm Hafslund spilled 19,000 liters of heating oil into the river on Wednesday.
The oil spill occurred while Hafslund crews were filling up heating oil tanks in the area around Ullevål University Hospital. A leak said to be within Hafslund’s system led to the 19,000 liters of oil running into a drain that eventually led right into the river.
It’s the second time in as many years that Hafslund has been responsible for a spill, although Wednesday’s accident was much worse than the one that occurred at another heating station in November 2010. “It’s very unfortunate that this could happen again,” Hafslund spokesman Truls E Jemtland told newspaper Dagsavisen. Jemtland also publicly apologized for the oil spill on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
Odor from the oil could be smelled along many portions of the river, which empties into the Oslo Fjord near the Opera House at Bjørvika. Crews set out equipment to try to collect the oil as it moved downstream and left a stench from Ullevål through Grünerløkka to Vaterland.
Svein Saltveit, researcher and biologist at the University of Oslo, said the oil spill would have “the same consequences” as an oil spill coming from a tank ship. “We can see birds covered with oil,” Saltveit told newspaper Aftenposten. He said the birds can then lose their ability to fly or insulate themselves from the cold, “and then they can die.”
Most of the fish in the river, called Akerselva, were wiped out just last year following another polluting spill of chlorine into the river from the city’s water treatment plant at the lake Maridalsvannet, the source of the river.
Saltveit was exasperated that another major spill hit the river so soon. “This is part of a long string of spills in Oslo,” he told Aftenposten. “Everyone operating in the vicinity of Akerselva must show greater responsibility and be more careful, to prevent this from happening.”
Environmental organization Bellona, which has its offices near the river at Vulkan, already has reported Hafslund to the police following Wednesday’s spill. An investigation is underway into how it occurred. County anti-pollution crews and other emergency workers arrived on the scene quickly and said any birds found covered with oil would be destroyed.
City officials, meanwhile, are refusing to pay a heavy fine received after last year’s chlorine spill, reported Aftenposten. Hafslund can likely expect a fine as well.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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