LEAD Action News

LEAD Action News vol 5 no 2  1997 ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News ( ISSN 1440-0561)
The journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.

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Battery Acid Spill On Board Ship

By Elizabeth O’Brien and Adrian Hill
NSW Community Lead Advisory Service (CLAS)

During the night of May 9th a ship carrying used car batteries hit stormy weather. The storm was so violent that a container of 40 tonnes of batteries smashed, disgorging a tonne of sulphuric acid into the hull of the ship, which also carried containers of foodstuffs. Much of the acid ran into the bilge water and it is to be hoped that the ships captain complies with a request not to dump the bilge water at sea until it can be established how much lead was in the sulphuric acid.

The mining and smelting of lead for car batteries are a major source of environmental lead contamination. This story highlights the hidden costs and environmental impacts of recycling of lead acid batteries.

NSW Fire Brigade Hazardous Materials Response Unit was sent to investigate and decided there was no immediate danger to the environment or personnel. The ship then sailed into Darling Harbour. Questions remain as to why the ship was allowed to dock so close to the city centre. Had a fire broken out, there could have been a disaster toxic fumes would spread in a cloud from the ship. Although the wet weather made this unlikely, what if the weather had been fine?

The Fire Brigades from 8 fire stations spent around eleven and a half hours in total, coping with the spill. They used one hundred and thirty air cylinders and as well as regular fire trucks, they used three emergency services and breathing apparatus trucks. The EPA Pollution Incidents duty officer who attended the scene was concerned to know what would have happened had another emergency occurred during the storm, there being such a significant proportion of the city’s fire response crews tied up on this cleanup. A Police escort was required to escort the thirty tonnes of debris to Alexandria for disposal.

The duty officer said the shipping company would probably be charged for cleanup costs. NSW CLAS hope that the shipping company will be paying all of the costs, with none being passed on to taxpayers.

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Last Updated 14 January 2013
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