Aftermath Of X-Press Pearl Sinking Continues To Cause Havoc As Most Harmful Toxic Waste
Classified by the UN as the “worst maritime disaster” of the country, the massive impact was not introduced by chemicals that were on board or heavy fuel oil. The most impactful and extensive damage, per the UN, occurred from the dumping of 87 containers loaded with nurdles about the size of a lens.
Per studies, nurdles play the role of “rafts” for harmful bacteria, including cholera or E Coli, carrying them from sewage sources, agricultural runoff to seashell beds, and bathing waters. Plastic rafting is now more on the rise.
Nurdles, unlike substances like gasoline and kerosene, are not considered hazardous per the Dangerous Goods Code for safe storage and handling designated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). This is irrespective of the threat that is posed by plastic granules known for almost three decades, as detailed in a report published in 1993 by the Environmental Protection Agency on how the plastics industry could reduce spills.
In 2020, there were two incidents of nurdle spills. A broken container on MV Trans Carrier, a freighter, lost 10 tonnes of pellets. These washed up on the coasts of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. In South Africa, a spill in August last year occurred post an accident that took place in 2018, which affected up to 2,000 km of the country’s coastline. Only about 23% of the 49 tonnes that was spilled could be recovered. About 342 containers loaded with plastic granules leaked into the North Sea in 2019.
Environmentalists are currently collaborating with Sri Lanka’s government to transform the disaster involving the X-Press Pearl disaster into a change catalyst.
The IMO secretariat observed that the nurdles may have been spilled down the road and referred to the issue to the pollution prevention and response committee that is supposed to meet in the coming year. Activists said that it was quite disheartening that the Sri Lankan proposal was not adequately discussed.
In the meantime, the cleanup drive is continuing in Sri Lanka. About 46 dolphins, 470 turtles, and eight whales that had washed up on the shore had nurdles in their bodies. Even though there is no concrete evidence yet that only the nurdles were responsible for such an impact, there have been instances of observing creatures like dolphins having plastic particles in them. About 20,000 families had to discontinue fishing.
When fishermen dive in the water, the pellets enter their ears. It has naturally affected tourism and everything else.