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Second oil leak angers Nishihara Town officials

Date Posted: 2005-09-01

For the second time in as many months, an underwater oil pipeline has spilled into the Nakagusuku Bay.

The incident in Nishihara Town’s Onaha area has town mayor Masahiro Arakaki up in arms. Less than a month before, he’d spoken to Nansei Oil Company about a July oil leak in the bay, and had received assurances it wouldn’t happen again.

About 800 square meters of water was blanketed by oil in this week’s incident. Nansei Oil Company, a crude oil refining company, was pumping oil through the one kilometer long underwater pipe reaching to an offshore pump station. Company President Kengo Oishi says the pipe has been decaying, and began leaking. His company called in the Coast Guard at Nakagusuku, which put up an oil fence and cleaned the water using special chemicals “that mix the oil and water, then take the oil away.” Oishi says “I don’t think there is any damage to the ocean goods” but others aren’t so sure.

The Nishihara Town Fishermen’s Association notes there is much seaweed in the area. An earlier accident in the same exact area prompted a visit by Mayor Arakaki to Nansei Oil Company. Arakaki says Nansei said “We promise you that this kind of accident will never happen again. We will do our best.” The mayor says that promise was quickly broken.

Nishihara Town’s mayor says the pipeline was last inspected in 2003, and company officials said nothing was wrong. Still, even Nansei officials concede the pipe is old. Arakaki says “we suspect that there is damage to the seaweed, but we can’t say exactly how much yet. We’ll know soon.”

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