Greek Scientists Warn: Saronic Gulf Pollution will Remain in Food Chain for Years

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017
Last Update: 12:11

The oil spill that polluted the coastal front of Athens will remain in the food chain for years, scientists warn.

The removal of the oil stains from the water does not mean that the Saronic Gulf area will put an end to the consequences, scientists say, arguing that with the emulsification of oil, various harmful substances have been passed on to the fish meat, and shellfish, and they warn consumers to avoid any seafood that remotely smells of oil.

Michalis Skoullos, Professor of Environmental Chemistry and Oceanography at the University of Athens and Director of UNESCO’s Sustainable Development Center in the Mediterranean, spoke to Kathimerini newspaper about the destructive effects of the oil pollution in the Saronic Gulf ecosystem.

The effects of oil pollution are natural, chemical and biological, Skoullos said. “Natural is what we see and smell: the blot, the tar. In addition to the financial damage they cause, they have an impact on the ecosystem: organisms on hard surfaces can not function and they die or are heavily polluted.  The same applies to birds, which are curious by nature and they are diving in the dirt. Their wings stick on the oil and they drown,” Skoullos  explained.

“Of the natural effects, some can be treated: the oil is collected, the beaches are cleaned. Of course, with the purification process, we stop seeing physical effects, but we increase chemical effects,” the scientist said.

Skoullos linked the cleaning of oil with chemicals, to dish washing liquids.  “With detergents, the oil does not dissolve, but emulsifies and leaves with the water down the drain. Thus, with dispersants thrown, oil is “emulsified” and affects all marine organisms more rapidly.  Some organisms will die, others will suffer a long-lasting problem because their flesh is sapped.  Here comes the biological effect. Hydrocarbons and some heavy metals are released into the sea and they affect the entire food chain. The catch gets oil odor and becomes obsolete.  People should avoid eating fish that smells like oil,” he said.

Cleaning efforts continue

Decontamination operations in the coastal areas of Attica continue intensively.Approximately 1,550 cubic meters, mainly consisting of oil and water, have been repaired so far by the reservoirs of the sunken tanker “Agia Zoni II” in the Saronic Gulf, off Salamis island.

A new tanker is expected to reach Agia Zoni II on Thursday, to receive fuel from the shipwreck.  It will replace the ship that is presently being used, because its certificate of seaworthiness is about to expire.

Currently, in the Attica coastal front four detergent boats of the Hellenic Coast Guard, and seven private boats are operating to collect oil from the waters.  Several vessels of the wrecked ship owning company are setting floating dams to contain the spill.

The areas most affected by the oil spill, are the beaches of Salamis, Agios Kosmas, Elliniko and Glyfada.  According to the briefing issued by the coordinating body of the operation, pollution is very heavy in these areas and it stays there, despite the efforts being made to clean up.

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