Friday, April 10, 2009

A challnge for Sri Lanka Disaster Managers: Acid Spills in the sea....

Compiled by Novil Wijesekara, Safer Sri Lanka

'MV Grand Bar', a ship carrying a load of 6,250 metric tons of sulphuric acid from Tuticorin to Kakinadan in India developed troubles on Monday, April 6. The crew was rescued by navy and it as found that the Sulfuric acid was leaking. The ship sank 90 nautical miles off Trincomalee. Navy managed to tow the vessel to the deep sea. It was confirmed to have gone 3,000m deep to the sea. (1)

Sulfuric acid (H2SO4) is a clear, colorless, odorless, viscous liquid that is very corrosive. As the largest-volume industrial chemical produced in the world, consumption of sulfuric acid is often used to monitor a country's degree of industrialization. Agricultural fertilizers represent the largest single application for sulfuric acid (65%). Other uses include production of dyes, alcohols, plastics, rubber, ether, glue, film, explosives, drugs, paints, food containers, wood preservatives, soaps and detergents, pharmaceutical products, petroleum products, pulp and paper. The common lead-acid storage battery is one of the few consumer products that actually contains sulfuric acid is the common lead-acid storage battery. (2)

Sulfuric Acid has moderate acute (short-term) toxicity on aquatic life. Sulfuric acid is very corrosive and would badly burn any plants, birds or land animals exposed to it. It has moderate chronic (long-term) toxicity to aquatic life. Chronic effects on plants, birds or land animals have not been determined. Small quantities of sulfuric acid will be neutralized by the natural alkalinity in aquatic systems. Larger quantities may lower the pH for extended periods of time. (3)

Similar incidents have been reported in the past from other countries as well.
A ship ran aground in China's 900-year-old Grand Canal dumping 200 tons of sulfuric acid into water in the latest incident to taint the country's already severely polluted waterwaysThe Xinhua News Agency said that pollution-control officials dumped 200 tons of liquid alkali into the water within 12 hours to neutralize the acid. (4)

On November 3, a barge loaded with 235,000 gallons of concentrated sulfuric acid, overturned shortly after arriving at a dock in the Port of Texas City, near Galveston. The acid plume traveled into the deeper parts of the channel, to an area approximately 300-600 meters around the vessel. (5)

Sri Lanka government is in the process of taking legal action against the company who is responsible for the incident. Ranjith Kularatne, Chairman of the Marine Environmental Protection Authority stated that they are in the process of preparing the necessary report in this regard. (1)
This is a good opportunity to see how effective the existing plans and mechanisms for oil spills management are to handle an unforseen disaster.

1. Colombo Page, . Colombo Page. [Online] 04 09, 2009. [Cited: 04 10, 2009.]
2. [Online]
3. Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and Arts - Government of Australia. National Polution Inventry. [Online] [Cited: April 10, 2009.]
4. AP. China Daily. [Online] 08 04, 2006. [Cited: 04 10, 2009.]
5. NOAA. National Ocean Service. National Ocean Service. [Online] 11 21, 2003. [Cited: 04 10, 2009.]

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