Oil Pollution at Jiyeh Power Station, Lebanon


Oil Pollution at Jiyeh Power Station, Lebanon
Oil Pollution at Jiyeh Power Station, Lebanon

As a result of hostilities in Lebanon, the power station at Jieh south of Beirut sustained damage during Israeli air strikes on 15 and 17 July 2006 and an estimated 15,000 tonnes of Medium Fuel Oil (IFO 150) were spilled from a tank farm adjacent to the coast. The escaping oil flowed into the sea and several satellite images have been released showing patterns consistent with a large release of oil, drifting north under the influence of prevailing currents. A characteristic pattern of land/sea breezes have caused the oil to strand along much of the Lebanese coast and oil has also reached the south Syrian coast, albeit in comparatively small amounts so far.

Because of continuing hostilities little or no active steps were taken to respond to the oil pollution and the opportunities for quantifying and tracking the drifting oil have also been limited. The National Oil Spill Contingency Plan for Lebanon only exists in draft form and the infrastructure and resources are inadequate for an effective domestic response to a major oil spill. However, the lead authority for pollution response in Lebanon, the Ministry of Environment, is initiating a first response with the support of the assistance described below, subject to security restrictions.

The Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre (REMPEC) in Malta received requests for assistance from the Lebanese authorities. Until recently, conditions in Lebanon have prevented the attendance of international experts on site, but representatives of the European Commission and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have been sent to Beirut, as well as technical experts from Denmark. REMPEC have dispatched two experts to Syria in response to requests from that country.

With the support of REMPEC's principals, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) it was agreed that a Group of Experts be formed, led by CEDRE (Centre de Documentation de Recherche et d'Experimentations sur le Pollutions Accidentelles des Eaux) and supervised by REMPEC, for the purpose of providing coordinated international advice and assistance to the Lebanese authorities. ITOPF agreed to join the Group following an invitation from REMPEC on 3rd August.

The stated aims of the established Group are to provide technical advice and help prepare a plan of action for dealing with the oil spill, and specifically to assess oil distribution; establish priorities for response; identify appropriate clean-up techniques and long-term strategy; estimate the cost of the clean-up operations; assist with the preparation of a technical and financial report to be presented at the next "UN Flash Appeal" to raise sufficient funds for the clean-up operation.

Whilst Lebanon is a party to the Civil Liability Convention (CLC 92) since March 2006, this convention is not applicable to the pollution event in Lebanon since the spill was not from a tanker and falls outside the international liability and compensation mechanisms. The issue of funding will be addressed at a meeting in Athens on 17 August, to be attended by the Secretary-General of IMO and the Executive Director of UNEP, the EC Environment Commissioner and representatives of the affected or potentially affected states (Lebanon, Syria, Cyprus, Turkey and Greece).

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