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Published: 2011-06-23 00:00:00

Waikato Regional Council says most of the oil spilled into the Awakino River yesterday afternoon appears to have gone out to sea overnight and that an initial assessment indicates no major environmental impacts around the river mouth or on the coast.

Around 20,000 litres of oil spilled into the river after an oil tanker crash yesterday in the Awakino gorge, about 12 kilometres from the coast. The council has been working with the trucking company, the Department of Conservation and Massey University staff to respond to the spill.

An inspection by Waikato Regional Council and Department of Conservation staff today has indicated a very limited environmental impact near the river mouth and the nearby coast.

“Hopefully this is a sign that most of the oil has been flushed out to sea and hasn’t caused any major impacts on wildlife,” said group manager Chris McLay.

“However, we plan to continue to monitor the coast in the short term in case oil is washed back on to the shoreline.

“Also, a more detailed environmental assessment of the incident’s impacts on wildlife is being planned by DoC and Massey University staff.”

While the situation with wildlife near the river mouth and coast is looking promising, there is some oil contamination in riverside vegetation from near the mouth to at least three kilometres upstream

A limited amount of oil is also continuing to flow down the river this afternoon but it is in now a relatively small slick up to 30 centimetres wide at the Awakino boat ramp.

The council is continuing to try to trap this oil using a floating boom system near the Awakino boat ramp and sucking it into tankers. The oil, which tends to stay on the surface, is caught by creating a pooling effect with the boom. This operation will continue for as long as it is needed.

There are plans to install another specialist boom near a bridge four kilometres from the river mouth this afternoon. This boom can absorb oil and also help it to pool.

“These steps will help us deal with the remaining oil in the river,” said Mr McLay.

“The next stage will be to determine more clearly what the exact environmental impacts have been, what remedial measures may be necessary and to continue monitoring the shoreline for signs of oil being washed ashore.

“It’s hard to tell at this stage how long our operation will continue but organisations will continue to work closely together to manage this situation.”