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Shell jet fuel spill at Germany Refinery creates toxic underground lake

Kerosene is classified as environmentally hazardous. Undiluted kerosene irritates the skin from direct contact. Ingestion causes vomiting and diarrhea, damages the lungs, the nervous system and the kidneys, and in the worst cases, lead to death.  It is toxic to aquatic organisms and causes long-term damage if it drains into a large body of water, such as the Rhine.

By John Donovan: 27 November 2012


On 22 February 2012 a spill of 846 tonnes of jet fuel was reported at the Shell Rheinland Werk Godorf Cologne Refinery.

The refinery consists of two factories in Cologne-Godorf and Wesseling in the south of Cologne, located on the left bank of the Rhine.

The leak occurred in an underground pipeline between the plant and a fuel depot.

Because an alarm system at the Shell refinery failed, it took four weeks for technicians discover the leak.

Kerosene is a liquid mixture of hydrocarbons obtained from petroleum. Jet fuel is a highly toxic mixture of kerosene and naphtha. It is practically insoluble in water and has a lower density, so that it is deposited as a carpet on a water surface.

According to a recent report, the spill has created an underground lake of one million liters of jet fuel/kerosene, which now floats on groundwater. A toxic contamination that according to an expert, will take decades to deal with.

By mid October, 20 groundwater monitoring wells were installed to map the extent of the spill. In twelve of these measuring points, jet fuel was detected. To date, however, Shell is unable to quantify the exact size of the underground kerosene lake.

Kerosene is classified as environmentally hazardous. Undiluted kerosene irritates the skin from direct contact. Ingestion causes vomiting and diarrhea, damages the lungs, the nervous system and the kidneys, and in the worst cases, lead to death.  It is toxic to aquatic organisms and causes long-term damage if it drains into a large body of water, such as the Rhine.

Shell has pumped contaminated water out of the ground, but this is a short-term defense; an emergency measure.

What has been described as “a kerosene sea” is still increasing in volume.  

A flood in the area would increase the possibility that the pollution will be discharged into the Rhine River. 

An article on the subject (link below) published by Deutschlandfunk – Cologne German Radio – contains an interview with an expert on such matters, Professor Frank-Dieter Kopinke from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig.

This incident and its aftermath does not inspire confidence in Shell’s promises regarding potential oil spills in Arctic waters.

SOURCE ARTICLE

Google Translation (The source of some of the above information)

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