Oil tanker spill at Kirkalocka Station causes ‘absolute devastation’ to pristine creek system, local wildlife

Residents from remote Kirkalocka Station, 500 kilometres north-east of Perth, say they are faced with “absolute devastation” after a truck rolled over spilling thousands of litres of used oil into the local creeks and surrounding environment.

The tanker carrying approximately 33,000 litres of used oil rolled over on a floodway on Great Northern Highway,  40 kilometres south of Mount Magnet, on July 30.

The accident resulted in 28,000 litres of used oil spilling into the environment, including a tributary of the Kirkalocka Station creek system.

Station co-owner Blair Ridley said the incident had caused “absolute devastation”.

“It’s still very upsetting,” an emotional Ms Ridley told ABC Radio Perth and WA.

Ms Ridley said she and her partner, Jared, were unaware of the extent of the incident until a week after the rollover.

The Ridleys received a text message from one of the contractors cleaning up the oil, and took a walk along the creek to see the damage for themselves.

“[The oil] is quite thick, it’s extremely smelly,” Ms Ridley said.

“You can see there are some pools where the oil has flowed through and further downstream but it has left a slick on the embankment, the grasses, the reeds, and has been caught up in little pools all through the creek system.

The region has experienced a high amount of rainfall for the first time in many years, and Ms Ridley said the Rangelands were looking incredible, which made her feel particularly devastated by the event.

Ms Ridley was deeply concerned for the region’s wildlife impacted by the oil spill as the area was known for its wildlife and birdwatching.

“A couple of days [into the spill], Jared found the first turtle covered in oil,” Ms Ridley said.

A number of volunteers travelled to Kirkalocka Station to assist the Ridleys in rescuing wildlife from the creeks after a call for help was posted on social media.

“We’ve had a fantastic response from the public. There are so many people coming to help us with the wildlife, it’s just amazing,” Ms Ridley said.

“We have been approached by local businesses, we’ve got a lot of mining and industry in the area, and we’ve had people ringing to donate spill equipment, which is vital to cleaning up this mess.

It took 10 days for contractors to begin cleaning up the spill, according to Ms Ridley who said she was concerned with the delay in dealing with the incident.

“The clean-up company was on-site from Thursday [August 5], but the clean-up didn’t start until Monday, August 9,” she said.

In a statement, the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) said the company transporting the used oil was responsible for the clean-up and associated costs.

“The company advised DWER that evening of the incident and engaged clean-up recovery contractors to remove, clean and dispose of any contaminated material from the scene to an approved facility for disposal,” the statement said.

An estimated 8,000 litres of oily water had been recovered by Wednesday, August 11 according to DWER.

“DWER has been monitoring the incident to ensure the clean-up was undertaken in a timely manner,” the statement said.

“The clean-up will require the removal of contaminated soil impacted with oil.

“A vacuum truck, spill absorbent booms, and a recovery tanker have been deployed to recover any soil and water that has been affected by the oil.

“The majority of the clean-up is manual work involving crews undertaking scraping and digging and the use of suction hoses.”

An environmental lawyer has been contacted by the Ridleys, who were concerned about the future of the creek and the wider environment.

“We just want to safeguard into the future that it’s going to be restored to the pristine condition that it was,” Ms Ridley said.

An environmental consultant had been engaged by the company transporting the oil and further follow-ups were expected, according to DWER.

“Following concerns raised by Kirkalocka Station homestead regarding the clean-up, DWER has deployed pollution response officers to the site to monitor the process and ensure it is occurring safely and methodically,” DWER said in a statement.

“Following today’s assessment, if necessary DWER will adjust the clean-up program being undertaken by the recovery contractor.” 

Published by ABC News