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Major incident declared as ‘large amount of oil’ leaks from pipeline into Poole Harbour with spill reported at the site near millionaire’s row of Sandbanks

  • Around 200 barrels of reservoir fluid leaked into the water on Sunday, March 26
  • A major incident has been declared, with an oil spill plan put in place to clear it 

A major incident has been declared close to the millionaire’s row of Sandbanks after reservoir fluid leaked into the water at Poole Harbour.

The Environment Agency said it received reports of a ‘large amount of oil’ in the water today – and warnings have been issued telling people not to swim in the area. 

It occurred in an underwater pipeline, leaking about 200 barrels of fluid – which can contain oil – into the internationally important body of water today.

Poole Harbour Commissioners (PHC) has put an oil spill plan into action and warned the public not to swim in the surrounding area until further notice.

Poole Harbour is the second largest natural harbour in the world, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Protection Area (SPA).

The leak took place in Poole Harbour (stock image) today, with reports of a 'large amount of oil' in the water

The leak took place in Poole Harbour (stock image) today, with reports of a ‘large amount of oil’ in the water 

The wetlands are recognised as being international important for wildfoul and it is an important area for breeding and overwintering water birds.

Just outside Poole Harbour, Poole Bay is a Marine Conservation Area with the seabed featuring ten different types of habitat and is home to more than 360 different marine species.

It is also close to Sandbanks, the exclusive peninsula that is home to Britain’s most expensive waterfront homes and has an award-winning Blue Flag beach that attracts thousands of visitors in the summer months.

The pipeline is operated by Perenco, who operate nearby Wytch Farm – the largest on-shore oil field in Western Europe which produces the equivalent of 14,000 barrels of oil a day.

The leak happened under Owers Bay. The pipeline was turned off and booms (floating barriers) were placed either side of the leak.

Perenco and PHC have commissioned two companies specialising in oil spill incidents to help with the clear up.

In a statement PHC said: ‘PHC have activated their oil spill plan and are working with a number of organisations. A major incident has been declared and a gold command unit has been established.

‘We would advise members of the public that they should not swim in Poole Harbour or the surrounding area until further notice.

The spill has taken place in Britain's largest natural harbour and miles from the exclusive residences in Sandbanks

The spill has taken place in Britain’s largest natural harbour and miles from the exclusive residences in Sandbanks

‘Anyone who has come into contact with the spill should wash immediately with soap and water. If eyes have come into contact with the spill they should be rinsed with water.’

Franck Dy, Perenco UK’s Wytch Farm general manager, said: ‘Any spill is an extremely serious matter and a full investigation will be launched to ascertain what happened in Poole Harbour.

‘It is important to stress that the situation is under control, with the discharge of fluids having been stopped and the spill is being contained.’

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: ‘We have received reports of a large amount of oil in Poole Harbour and we are supporting the port authority and other partners in responding to this incident.’ 

Philip Broadhead, leader of the Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch council, which administers the area, said tonight: ‘I can advise of an emergency situation in our area. Our Wytch Farm oil field in the Purbecks has been operating since 1979 and is one of the largest onshore oil fields in Europe.

‘We have today been advised by the operators that there has been a leak from the facility. Whilst this has been contained, we are told that oil has escaped into the water and surrounding area.

‘We are liaising closely as part of long-established mechanisms with a variety of parties as the situation unfolds.

‘The lead agency on this is the Poole Harbour Commissioners. A major incident has been declared whiich results in all relevant partner agencies working closely together.

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‘As leader of the council I will, along with the senior council team, be working to see what implications this leak may have and what action we may need to to take. 

‘It is of course extremely disappointing to hear of this event and while there will be a time later for anger and investigation, our focus now must be on ensuring we can mitigate any impact of this situation.

‘We will keep you posted on further updates as we have them.’

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