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Wakashio Oil Spill Cleaning: No chemicals used according to Polyeco

oil spill on mangrove

No chemicals or solvents were used during the cleaning operations of the oil spill in Mauritius. Only flushing, flooding, washing, and wiping with absorbents were employed according to Polyeco, who accepted to answer questions sent by Aufait Media. 2400 tons of hazardous waste were collected during the cleaning operations, reveals the company, which was incorporated in Mauritius, since 2016.

Polyeco claims that no chemicals or solvents were used during the cleaning operations of the 1,000 tons oil spill which happened in the South East of Mauritius. According to them, the only techniques utilized were high-pressure washing, wiping with absorbents, and flushing and flooding. 

These techniques were used for the cleaning operations done in different sites and types of shorelines: sandy beaches in Blue Bay and Pointe d’Esny, mangroves at Petit Bel Air and Rivière des Créoles, muddy shores at Anse Fauvrelle and Pointe Brocus, rocky surfaces at Preskil Hotel, Pointe Jerome, Ile Aux Aigrettes and Ile Mouchoir Rouge, as well as, man-made structures/rip rap at the Mahebourg Waterfront. 

For example, soft brushes and wiping with absorbents were privileged for the delicate coral cleaning at Ile aux Aigrettes.

For mangroves shorelines, the company says it has privileged techniques such as flushing which consists of applying low to medium water pressure onto the mangroves to remove the oil trapped in the roots.     

Polyeco claims to have used seawater and absorbents for the cleaning process. No other additional effect on the environment and public health should be feared according to the company.

To the question of whether rehabilitation actions (reintroduction of species, repopulation, etc.) are planned for damaged or lost fauna and flora, Polyeco answers that their mandate was to only perform the cleaning up operations. “This question should be directed to the Ministry of Environment or the relevant authorities”, they responded.

Asked on Polyeco’s collaboration with environmental and scientific organizations having specific expertise, the company just answers that NGOs were present throughout the operation alongside the relevant ministries. They did not give any more information about which organizations were effectively present by their side through the cleaning operations. 

The safety of the people is non-negotiable

Japan P&I Club appointed them and another company to perform the cleaning-up operations in the South East of Mauritius. They said to have employed and remunerated around 300 people amongst whom fishermen and skippers whose jobs were directly impacted by the oil spill. Polyeco did not disclose the remuneration of their team.

According to Polyeco, all the people recruited come from the surrounding areas affected by the oil spill. As part of their recruitment process, they say to have ensured that these fishermen and skippers are duly registered by the authorities.

The training was done continuously since the start of the operations. Greek experts came to Mauritius to supervise the training on the use of equipment, safety procedures, first aid, proper use of PPE, etc. The Mauritians employed also received toolbox talks and continuous sessions to bring efficiency in the cleaning operations.

Polyeco says that the safety of the people is non-negotiable. The operations were inspected by the Ministry of Labour and Polyeco ensured that all the involved personnel received daily appropriate & certified protective equipment such as gowns, gloves, face shields, protective masks, etc.

Disposal of hazardous waste

2400 tons of hazardous waste were collected including oily sludge, heavily contaminated soil with oil, contaminated absorbents & PPE, empty contaminated drums & IBCs, and other contaminated debris, materials & waste. 

The contaminated waste is considered environmentally hazardous and requires professional waste management and handling. Polyeco says that all the hazardous waste and debris collected on the different sites were delivered to the Interim Storage Facility for Hazardous Waste for sorting, regrouping and proper repacking in certified packing materials such as drums, IBCs, Big Bags, etc. for safe storage before their exportation for final disposal.

The hazardous waste will be exported for recovery to European facilities depending on the type and characteristics of each waste stream. The exportation is planned to be completed by the end of March 2021.

To the question of whether there were wastes that could not be removed from the sites polluted by the oil spill, Polyeco explains that all their assigned sites have been thoroughly cleaned. They are currently monitoring those areas before delivering them to the authorities by the end of January 2021.

Transparency doesn’t apply

How much were they paid for this clean-up operation? And who paid them? They have been contracted by the Japan P&I Club but the amount will be kept secret from Mauritians. Transparency doesn’t apply here.

To the question of whether profits made by Polyeco in Mauritius, during this clean-up operation and in general, will be reinvested in the Mauritius operations, Polyeco explains that the experts for the clean-up operations are from their parent company, Polyeco Group. 

Polyeco further says that they have employed Mauritians instead of bringing more cleaning experts from their parent company. 
Polyeco Group is willing to invest in business and people not only to be better prepared for any unforeseen oil spill disaster but also to promote sustainable environmental solutions which will protect the environment in Mauritius”, says the company.