Sea oil dispersant failed safety tests

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FIFTEEN TONS of dispersant used in the Braer oil tanker disaster on Shetland had failed previous toxicity tests, the Government confirmed yesterday.

One of the dispersants 'almost certainly' used was not tested for use on rocky shores, as it was not intended to be used in such places.

The disclosure came in a Commons written reply from David Curry, the agriculture minister, to Jim Wallace, MP for Orkney and Shetland.

The Liberal Democrat MP said: 'The disclosure of this information underlines that residents in the south mainland of Shetland were well-justified in expressing misgivings about the use of these dispersants.'

Mr Wallace said health monitoring for people and livestock should continue for the forseeable future. 'On the principle of 'polluter pays', the Government should pick up the tab for using these dispersants,' he added.

In his written reply, Mr Curry said three of the dispersants used had all passed the toxicity tests required for dispersants to be used in United Kingdom waters. But in tests for rocky shore conditions, one had passed, and one failed. The third was not tested as it was 'not proposed for use on rocky shores'.

Underwater life appears to have been wiped out in areas near the wrecked tanker Braer, according to divers from the Marine Life Rescue Unit in Northamptonshire who have taken seabed samples.

Dead and injured seabirds are still being washed up on Shetland beaches, more than a fortnight after the tanker ran aground. The latest total is 1,285 dead and 239 receiving treatment. Oil-contaminated mammals include 11 dead seals and four dead otters.

The Scottish Office would pay pounds 1m to Shetland Islands Council to help cover emergency compensation payments to affected fish farmers and farmers, Ian Lang MP, Secretary of State for Scotland, revealed yesterday. More bridging funds may be made available later, but eventually all the compensation payments must be met by the tanker's owners or its insurers, Mr Lang said.

EC safety moves, page 9

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