The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Cracked Undersea Pipeline Caused Deadly Oil Spill in Indonesia
The company initially said the disaster had nothing to do with its nearby refinery or undersea pipelines that run across the bay, noting that its own tests on oil spill samples found marine fuel oil used for ships, not crude oil.
But on Wednesday, Pertamina admitted that its crude oil pipeline was indeed the cause. A company manager noted the distribution line was closed immediately after divers detected the leakage on Tuesday. A test on a tenth oil spill sample also confirmed that it was crude. The firm is now calculating the amount of oil leaked into the bay.
The government, however, insists the incident is not Pertamina's fault. An energy ministry official cast blame on a foreign coal vessel that dropped anchor in the bay and dragged the pipeline 120 meters from its initial location, causing it to crack.
"The pipe was allegedly dragged by an anchor dropped by a vessel, though no vessel was permitted to drop anchor or even pass through the bay," Djoko Siswanto, the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry's oil and gas director general, said, according to The Jakarta Post.
The minister did not identify which ship but police investigating the spill have questioned the crew of the Panama-flagged MV Ever Judger.
"So, this was actually the fault of the vessel. [...] As there were casualties in the incident, the owner of the vessel could be charged for the crime. But it all still depends on the results of the ongoing investigation," Djoko said.
Greenpeace Indonesia said Pertamina is responsible for the disaster. On social media, the group condemned the state-run company for the tragedy and charged it with restoring the Balikpapan Bay ecosystem.
"This is why the world has got to start switching to renewable energy and leaving behind the limited fossil energy and destroying our planetary environment and our future," Greenpeace Indonesia said (via Google Translate).
Indonesia declared a state of emergency on Monday after the spill ignited and killed at least five people in the port city of Balikpapan over the weekend. Hundreds of locals reported health issues including difficulty breathing, nausea and vomiting from the smell of fuel and black smoke that emanated from the blaze.
The environment ministry said the oil slick has spread across 13,000 hectares (50 square miles) of Balikpapan's waters and polluted 60 kilometers (37 miles) of coastal ecosystems, including mangrove wetlands and marine mammal habitats.
Zulficar Mochtar from the marine and fishery ministry said the spill threatens the ecosystem, economy and livelihoods of local fishermen.
"We cannot solve this problem alone, we need to find collective solution. The efforts would be beyond beach cleaning," Mochtar said on Thursday.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
A dire new report issued by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) found that the climate crisis is on a worrying trajectory as the crisis's hallmarks — sea level rise, ice loss and extreme weather — all increased over the last five years, which will end as the warmest five-year period on record.
By Peter Gleick
War is a miserable thing. It kills and maims soldiers and civilians. It destroys infrastructure, cultures and communities. It worsens poverty and development challenges. And it damages and cripples vital ecological and environmental resources.
Hundreds of activists gathered in the Swiss Alps on Sunday to mourn the loss of Pizol, a glacier that has steadily retreated over the last decade as temperatures have warmed the mountain tops, according to CNN.
Vice President Mike Pence sparked outrage on social media Saturday when he traveled in the first-ever motorcade to drive down the streets of Michigan's car-free Mackinac Island, HuffPost reported.
By Shawn Radcliffe
- As illnesses and deaths linked to vaping continue to rise, health officials urge people to stop using e-cigarettes.
- Officials report 8 deaths have been linked to lung illnesses related to vaping.
- Vitamin E acetate is one compound officials are investigating as a potential cause for the outbreak.
By Julia Conley
As organizers behind Friday's Global Climate Strike reported that four million children and adults attended marches and rallies all over the world — making it the biggest climate protest ever — they assured leaders who have been reticent to take bold climate action that the campaigners' work is far from over.