Environmental impacts on wildlife, land, food and soil

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  • David Okill

    Contingency plans for and impacts upon wildlife are discus- ment. The chairman of each of the groups reported to the sed, followed by land-related environmental health impacts. management team and the environment and procurement

    chairman sat on the technical team (Table 1).

    This paper reviews environmental impacts of the Bruer The envir~~nment team consisted of myself as chairman.

    incident on the wildlife, land and food of Shetland. It representing SIC Environmental Health and included the

    includes a brief discussion of the management structure Director of Public Health (Shetland Health Board), Scot-

    that was used to handle the spill and the contingency plans tish Office (SO) Marine Laboratory, Fisheries Inspecto-

    that went into operation (Figure I). rate, Oil Spill Service Centre (Environmental Officer),

    The Shetland Islands Council (SIC) has developed a Representatives of the WRC, Royal Society for the Pro-

    series of contingency plans. Two deal with oil spills - the tection of Birds (RSPB). SNH, Scottish Society for the

    first relates specifically to Sullom Voe Harbour, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA), Flillswick

    second to the rest of the coast of Shetland, and it was this Wildlife Sanctuary, Sullom Voe Terminal (Environmental

    plan that went into action on the morning of 5 January. Officer), SIC consultants on air pollution and, once the

    The plan deals with the overall management of the spill scale of the pollution was evident and at their request,

    and the setting up of a Joint Response Centre (JRC). Shetland Salmon Farmers Assocation and Shetland

    Both of the oil spill plans are supported by the wildlife Fishermens Association. In retrospect it would have been

    response contingency plan, established by Shetland Oil useful to have the SO Agriculture Division on the team,

    Terminal Environmental Advisory Group (SOTEAG) but this was never foreseen as a problem in the contingen-

    under the chairmanship of Professor George Dunnet to cy plan. This is one of the features that make this spill

    provide for wildlife response in the case of an incident and unique (Tables 2 and 3).

    includes: By the middle of the morning of Day 1. the Boddam

    Scout Hut had been identified as a suitable site for the

    (1) The setting up of a Wildlife Response Centre (WRC) Wildlife Response Centre and once oil was known to be in the case of an incident. pouring from the vessel, mobilization of the equipment

    (2) The identification of personnel to deal with affected was started. The main objectives of the centre were to wildlife and to work from the WRC. collect, record and store mortalities and to deal with

    (3) The storage of necessary equipment at the pollution casualties: mammals to be transported to Hillswick for store at Sullom Voe. This includes protective clo- treatment and birds to be transported to the SSPCA thing. plastic bags. boxes for transportation, gloves, Centre at MiddlebaIlk (Figure 3). instructions for volunteers, information on equipment availability (eg communication, refrigeration contain- ers, photocopiers and faxes).

    Wildlife

    (4) Long-term plans for the provision of facilities to deal At the first Press Conference on Day 1, a question was with affected wildlife at Hillswick (for animals, espe- asked about the scale of the disaster in terms of wildlife. I cially seals and otters) at the Scottish Society for the responded that it was likely to be large, but not as large as Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) centre at it would have been if the spill had been in the summer Gott (for birds). months when large numbers of Shetlands breeding sea-

    Backing up these contingency plans is the SIC emergency birds would have been present (Tables 4 and 5).

    plan which gives comprehensive logistical back-up at all Just over 1 500 birds were found dead and 218 live birds

    levels, and provides for the overall Emergency Controiler, collected - some of these subsequently died. However,

    in this case the SIC Chief Executive, Malcolm Green. This this represents an unknown proportion of the birds which

    plan takes much of the pressure off those dealing with died, as only beaches were searched for casualties - many

    specific problems of the incident and has in it plans for would have come ashore on inaccessible rocky shores.

    media control, provision of accommodation. travel and Others may have been swept out to sea, sunk or been

    focod for field staff, communications etc (Figure 2). scavenged (Tables 6 and 7).

    The JRC was headed by a management team supported Just over 30 seals were taken into captivity and 29

    by three subgroups - environment, technical and procure- subsequently released, three died. The birds most affected were winter visitors from the -.

    David Okill is Divisional Manager, Environmental Health, En- Arctic as well as locally resident species. Those species vironmental Services Department, Shetland Islands Council. little affected were those local residents which moved out

    Environmental impacts on wildlife, land, food and soil

    0308-597~93/050~9-04 @ 1993 Shetland Islands Council (text) and Butte~orth-Hejnemann (~pography & design) 449

  • Shetland Islands Council AntI Oil Spill

    (JRC)

    Figure 1. Contingency plans in operation after the Braer incident.

    Figure 2. Structure of Joint Response Centre

    i_- /

    Figure 3. Wildlife Response Centre

    of the arca into the lee of the storms and of course those

    xabird species which arc generally not present in Gnter.

    We have 21 small amount of information on the origin of

    the c;~suAties as some of the birds were ringed; 33 of the

    Table 1. JRC management team.

    Chairman: SIC Marine Operations Vice ChaIrman: SIC Environmental Serwces

    Marine Pollution Control Unit (MPCU) Oil Spill Service Centre (OSSC) lnternabonal Tanker Owners Pollution Fund (ITOPF) Insurers MO Pollution Control Police Coastguard

    Chairman. Environment Group Chairman: Technical Group

    450 MARINE POLICY September 1993

    Table 2. Enviroment Team.

    Chatrman: SIC Environmental Health

    Director of Public Health Consultants (alr pollution) SO Marine Laboratory Shetland Salmon Farmers Association (SSFA) Oil Spill Service Centre (OSSC) Wildlife Response Centre (WRC) SNH Royal Society for the ProtectIon of Birds (RSPB) Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Antmals (SSPCA) Htllswick Sanctuary Sullom Voe Terminal (Enwronmental Officer)

    Table 3. Technical Team.

    ChaIrman: MPCU Vice ChaIrman- SIC M-O

    Coastguard ossc Unlted Kingdom Offshore Operators Assoctabon (UKOOA) Air Atlantic SIC: DLO Contractors ITOPF Sullom Voe Terminal Chalrman of Enwronment Team Chairman of Procurement Team

    Table 4. Birds affected.

    Winter visitors Long-tailed Ducks Great Northern Divers

    Local residents Shags Tystles Elders

    Table 5. Birds little affected.

    Local residents Cormorants Gannets Fulmars

    Summer visitors Puffins Guillemots RazorbIlls Terns Skuas Red-throated Divers

    Table 6. Wildlife casualties from the Braer incident up to 29 January 1993.

    Birds Fulmar Great Northern Diver Long-tailed Duck Eider Shag Great Black-back Gull Klttiwake Herrlng Gull Guillemot Black Guillemot Puffln Other sp Total

    Mammals Otter Grey Seal Common Seal Total

    Dead Live 32 0 13 2 96 21 73 48

    a55 118 45 0

    133 3 16 3 16 5

    202 16 15 0 53 2

    1 549 218

    2 3 11 25 I 4

    14 32

  • Table 7. Shetland and UK wintering populations of species affected by the Braer incident (approximate figures).

    Quendalel Sumburgh Shetland UK

    Great Northern Diver 50+ 300-400 5 000 ShaQ 1 00&2000 120 ooo+ 600 000 Elder 200+ 7 000 72 000 Long-tailed Duck 3001 3 000-5 000 20 000 Black Guillemot 150-t 12 000-15 000 38 000

    shags were carrying rings, 15 were from the local colony on Sl~rnbur~h Head, but the others were from more distant colonies (Table 8). It was thought that shags in Shetland were locally resident, not moving far from their breeding colonies, however, these results suggest that winter move- ment may be regular. This is supported by the presence of breeding shags on the Sumhurgh cliffs by March. The predictions had been that this colony would be wiped out b!, the incident, but obviously some of the Sumburgh birds had been out of the area during the incident. These birds halve since returned to the cliffs. but only a proportion of the colony is now present.

    Other species were affected in the spill and there was a large kill of fish especially in Quendale Bay. This included l&h of a wide range of all sizes. This has been unrecorded in Shetland before on this scale and was probably due to the combination of the storms and the toxic effects of the dispersing oil (Figure 4).

    The spill has two effects on wildlife, direct and indirect. The direct effect produces casualties and mortalities, the indirect effects are more variable and more difficult to NXX. For example, birds can receive a sublethal dose of toxic material -either from direct ingestion or from eating contaminated food. This can lead to behavioural changes M hich may affect breeding success. This happened to (ommon Murres in the Valdez area when the timing of the breeding in the colonies was disrupted. Success could be disrupted if the food supply of the birds in the colonies is affected. The main food source for seabirds in Shetlands is sand-eels. If these have been affected by the oil over a wide area, they may not be available to the birds from the colonies.

    Mortalities + casualties Sub--lethal closes

    (effects ofl behaviour - breeding ~ILICC~SS, etc. 1

    Reduction of food supply

    Overall population reduction

    i Populattons after tsso Berr,Ioo

    took lo--15 years to recover

    Figure 4. Wildlife effects.

    MARINE POLICY September 1993

    Table 8. Ringed birds found among the Bfaef casualties.

    Shag Sumburgh Head 15 Fair Isle 11 Foula 6 (oldest bird ringed 1977) Unst 1 Orkney 1

    Tystie WhalsayiSumburgh Scalloway IslandsiScalloway islands

    Eider Breeding female from Fair lsie Kittiwake Nestling from Farne Islands (ringed 1964)

    However, whatever the effects, there will be a reduction in the populations of some of the seabird species in at least Shetlands south mainland and perhaps over a wider area. Monitoring of seabirds after the Esso Berniciu incident at Sullom Voc would suggest that it may take up to 15 years for populations to recover.

    Land contamination

    The Bruer spill was unique in many ways, but one of its most startling features was the contaminati(~n of land from wind-borne oil. This carry-over to the land has never been recorded on this scale in any previous spill and conse- quently did not form part of the oil spill contingency plan. However, it was evident from Day I that the hurricane force winds that were dispersing the oil against the cliffs were also carrying the particulated oil far inland, and the smell from this highly aromatic crude was carried many miles.

    On Day I, we instigated a sampling programme of the public water supply which is approximately 4 km from the site of the wreck. Three samples per day were taken and dispatched to different laboratories by different methods to ensure that results were available from different sources, even if weather delayed transport. The small loch which supplies the water for the South Mainland did receive surface contamination of oil. However, the ab- straction point is some 1.5 metres below the surface and there is no vortex effect. The abstraction is on the windward side of the loch, so that the surface contamina- tion was constantly carried away from the abstraction point. We were fortunate that we had no detectable PAHs in the public supply. However, WC did have contingency plans had the supply become cont~~lninatcd,

    As the oil cont~~n~in~~ti~~n spread across the fields, we inspected a wide range of affected crops, some of which we sampled for analysis. We also took samples of milk, eggs, vegetables and, later, fish.

    The results have been very variable; early results in cabbage were as high as 50 ppm, but most vegetables showed I-S ppm of contamination. It is worth noting that there is no standard for hydro-carbons in food stuffs but at these levels, oil could be detected by organoleptic methods. Eggs showed levels of up to 0.2 ppm. Milk showed no detectable levels. which is not surprising as the

    451

  • cows were being housed inside and fed on stored food. We

    will, however sample milk in the spring when the cattle are

    released to pasture to ensure that there is no contamina-

    tion of the supply.

    The bulk of the fish sampling has been done by the SO

    Marine Laboratory with whom WC have established excel-

    Icnt cooperation. Together with SSQC we have done

    organoleptic testing as well as sending samples of salmon,

    whitefish and shellfish for analysis.

    SOAFD has taken a series of samples of sheep meat and

    together with MLUKI. has done work on digestion. soil,

    water and herbage samples. While the results and the

    reaction of the agricultural division was initially slow.

    information is now coming through.

    pies throughout the South Mainland directed at the public

    health aspects of the incident as opposed to the agricultu-

    ral aspects which were being covered by SOAFD.

    Dr Leinster was also able to carry out occupatiowd

    health and COSKassessments, on our behalf, on both the

    people working for the WRC and the DLO who were

    cleaning the hcachcs.

    Most recently, there has been some public concern

    about the possibility of oil cont~lmination of amenit)

    heaches and we have started ;I programme of sampling

    sand from these beacha. While some of those beaches

    that were known to have been contaminated do show low

    levels of contamination (which is rapidly clearing), other

    beaches can bc shown to be free from oil.

    Health implications Conclusion

    From the early days of the spills. it was obvious that there The monitoring continues. The SIC maintains its sampling

    may be health implication\ from wind-blown oil. another programme as part of its duty as public health, water and

    unique: feature of this spill. We were able to get the help of food authority. SOAFD continues with its large sampling

    an occupational hygienist from BP on site by Day 3. programme. especially in relaGon to the Exclusion Zone.

    Subsequently. we engaged Dr P. I.einster who arrived on Meanwhile. the Secretary of States Environmental Stecr-

    Day 5. Dr Leinster W;ILI able to take on all of the ing Group (ESGOSS) is overseeing other aspect\ of

    atmospheric sampling. I Ie also took :I writs of \oil san- environmental monitoring.

    452 MARINE POLICY September 1993

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