The bomb is still ticking

September 4, 2006


ALMOST three weeks into the Guimaras disaster, the government has yet to come up with a clear plan on what to do with the sunken tanker Solar 1. The vessel lies on the seabed about 600 meters from the surface, with about 450,000 gallons of oil still in its hold. Late last week a submersible sent down by a Japanese survey ship inspected the tanker and found no substantial amount of oil leaking from its tanks.

That provides a small measure of relief for now. There is still the danger that the pressure at such a depth would eventually cause the remaining intact tanks to burst and release their contents. That, some environmental experts fear, could trigger a catastrophe of global proportions.

How to deal with the wreck of the Solar 1 is critical to the efforts to clean up and contain the oil it has already spilled. Already, kilometers of beaches, marine reserves and mangroves have been blackened. There are new concerns the current could carry the slick as far south as the Sulu Sea and cause more devastation there.

No amount of cleaning up would be effective unless the source of the leak is sealed first. There are three options: Siphon the remaining oil from the wreck, refloat the tanker or entomb it under sand or cement. All of these measures cost a lot, and none is guaranteed to be a hundred percent effective.

(For the rest of the piece, click Time bomb, Sept. 4, 2006.)


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