Oil leak from Sual power plant contained, says mayor

Eva Visperas - The Philippine Star

SUAL, Pangasinan, Philippines – The oil leak from the Sual coal-fired 1,218-megawatt power plant here has been contained, an official said yesterday.

Mayor Roberto Arcinue told The STAR that the oil leak from a ruptured pipe was put under control while cleanup operations are continuous.

Arcinue said he was at the plant from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday to check the situation and saw that “there is no cause for alarm.”

The oil leak stemmed from a pipe rupture near the outfall of the Sual power station that was detected at around 2:23 a.m. on Monday. By 3 a.m., the power plant’s emergency response team had isolated the affected valve.

Arcinue said the fish cages are far from the affected area, but noted that there could have been a fish kill if the leak had not been immediately contained.

He said there was no reported effect on the fish cages as of yesterday.

“Our bangus (milkfish) is okay as usual,” he said.

Reports said the oil leak occurred near 700 fish cages, raising fears among nearby communities of the incident’s impact on fishing operations.

Sual town produces at least 20 metric tons of milkfish and 10 MT of pompano mostly sold in Metro Manila.

Arcinue said it was the first time in 14 years that an oil leak occurred at the Sual power plant.

“Hopefully it won’t be repeated anymore,” he said, even as he urged the management of the power plant to improve its maintenance operations.

No impact on environment

In a telephone interview, Froilan Gregory Romualdez III, head of external affairs of Team Energy, the operator of the power plant, said latest findings show that the incident has no immediate impact on the environment.

“We will continue to closely monitor the situation in coordination with the relevant government agencies and take action if and when needed,” he said.

Romualdez said the oil leak occurred while operators were starting up Unit 1 of the power plant, which required the use of oil.

He said they have reported the matter to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Energy.

“We remain fully committed to operating the plant in a safe and reliable manner,” he said.

BFAR team

Westly Rosario, center chief of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Dagupan City, said he had sent a team to check the incident and its effect on the fish cages.

“We wanted to see how near or far (is the oil leak) to the fish cage areas and the appropriate actions to undertake,” Rosario said.

However, Romualdez said initial information showed that fish cages near the power plant were not affected.

“As we were able to swiftly take control of the situation and isolate the leak, there has been no adverse impact on marine life in the area,” he said.

He said inspection of immediate coastlines has likewise shown no trace of the incident.

“Everything seems to be back to normal. We will monitor developments, assess the situation and take necessary measures to ensure that this will not happen again,” Romualdez said.

PCG team

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) also sent personnel to the power plant to determine the extent of the damage caused by the oil leak.

“The PCG in Sual continues to inspect the shorelines of Barangay Pangascasan to assess the extent of the oil spill which originated from a pipeline of the energy power plant. About 20 drums or 400 liters of heavy fuel oil leaked from the ruptured pipeline of the plant,” PCG spokesman Cmdr. Armand Balilo said.

Balilo said they would file appropriate charges against those responsible for the oil leak if necessary.

Ensign Roland Magdadaro, PCG commander here, said they found no trace of oil in the sea, but a water-sampling test would still be conducted.

Magdadaro said they would issue an Inspection and Apprehension Report and determine if the response to the incident was appropriate. – With Iris Gonzales, Evelyn Macairan, Cesar Ramirez

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