WWF: Oil spill in northwest Finland worse than expected

YLE NewsEye on the Arctic

The environmental organization World Wildlife Fund says last Friday’s oil spill in the northwest Finland city of Raahe is worse than originally estimated. Volunteers will continue their cleanup efforts in the islands near the mainland for as long as another week. On Tuesday volunteers focused their recovery efforts on the island of Selkämatala, an important marine nesting ground.

“This is a critical location. There’s some oil on the beach and many birds are here,” said WWF field coordinator Teemu Niinimäki.

He described the operation as taxing but rewarding.

“It’s hot and heavy work with the protective gear on. It requires a high level of motivation, but it’s rewarding to get the beach clean and to provide clean nesting conditions for the birds,” he added.

So far rescuers have found about 43 birds contaminated with oil, however they were still capable of flight.

On Tuesday WWF conservationists, army conscripts and other volunteers wielded brushes and shovels in an effort to clean oil off the beach, intending to work late into the evening. Meanwhile cleanup activities are also in full swing on Iso-Kraaseli Island, where they began Monday.

More volunteers needed

WWF says it will continue cleaning at least until Thursday. The organisation says however that it’s very likely that oil recovery will continue into the weekend. Erasing all signs of the oil spill from the rocky beaches requires painstaking hand work, as the oil has proven to be difficult to dislodge in some areas.

Niinimäki said the cleanup would require another 30 pairs of hands.

“We are using a lot of brushes. Even dishwashing scrubbers can be useful in some places,” Niinimäki explained.

Last Friday about 12 tons of heavy fuel oil leaked from a Rautaruukki plant with between 3 tons and 5 tons making its way into the sea. Dozens of volunteers are now cleaning the islands contaminated by the spill in an operation led by the Jokilaakso rescue and emergency unit. The rescue team has also been responsible for organising, transporting and providing equipment for volunteers.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.