Crude oil exposed on beach after 1978 tanker spill

Oil on North Beach in Lowestoft. Picture: Danielle Booden

Oil on North Beach in Lowestoft. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

Crude oil has been exposed on North Denes beach in Lowestoft after a tanker spill more than 40 years ago.

A spokesperson for East Suffolk Council confirmed the exposure of the crude oil is from the Eleni V tanker spill in 1978.

The giant oil tanker Eleni V was sailing in thick fog when she was struck by the French bulk carrier Roseline on May 6, 1978.

ship

Flashback to the stricken Eleni V. With HMS Plymouth close by, the ship's helicopter ferries explosives across to the tankers hulk (31/05/1978) - Credit: Library

More than 5,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil was spilt – polluting some 20 miles of the Norfolk coast – after the collision which is believed to have happened about four miles off Lowestoft.

Oil on North Denes beach in Lowestoft.

Oil on North Denes beach in Lowestoft. - Credit: Danielle Booden

At the time, the ship's bow section drifted off the shore and polluted the beaches with thick bunker oil.


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While a two and a half tonne explosive was used to detonate the hulk, press at the time reported the wreck sits in one piece still on the North Sea bed.

It is not the first time this has happened after an oil spill in Gorleston in 2016 and at Gunton Warren in 2018.

Spilt crude oil can pollute streams, rivers and, if it soaks through the soil and rock, groundwater.

Oil on North Beach in Lowestoft. Picture: Danielle Booden

Oil on North Beach in Lowestoft. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

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Oil is toxic and harmful to plants and animals and a threat to their habitats.

For most people, brief contact with crude oil will do no harm.

Oil on North Beach in Lowestoft. Picture: Danielle Booden

Oil on North Beach in Lowestoft. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

Some people are more sensitive to chemicals, including those found in crude oil. These people may develop a rash or skin irritation or have other allergic reactions.

Local resident Martin Blythe spotted the exposed crude oil whilst on a walk two days ago but says it has been an issue since October 2020 and has gradually got worse.

He said: "It's an environmental disaster, contained and buried at the beach 40 years ago to act as a sea defence to stop erosion.

"It's an utter scandal. The problem is, erosion on that part is now exposing the buried crude oil.

"The oil is the size of 20 to 30 cars all clumped up on the beach.

"It is still stuck on my boots today and we spent about an hour trying to wash it off our dog."

"I'm worried about the effect it will have on the environment and wildlife in the area like the seal colony."

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