The oil contamination along the Colaba coast as a result of a spill last month is 38 times higher than the level that is globally defined as toxic, a study by The Energy Resources Institute has found.
The soil collected right after the spill had 381 grams of oil per 1 kilogram of soil, the institute found after analysing samples at three separate labs. India does not have a regulatory standard for oil contamination of soil, but many countries in the West consider samples with more than 10 grams per 1 kilogram of soil to be toxic and in need of cleaning, according to Banwari Lal, the New-Delhi-headquartered institute’s director for environment and industrial biotechnology.
“We will require at least two to three more months to finish cleaning the soil and debris in this area,” he said, adding that the data would help the institute monitor the cleaning process.
Two ships collided off the city’s coast last month, spilling furnace oil and contaminating the Colaba coast as well as beaches in Alibag. The state government has entrusted the energy institute to clean the soil in both areas using a technique called bio-remediation, in which micro-organisms such as bacteria break down the oil.
It began this process on August 20. The contamination at Alibag, at 60 grams per 1 kilogram of soil, while higher than the global danger level is much less than at Colaba. The institute will therefore finishing cleaning the soil in less than two weeks, Lal said.
Although other spills have been much bigger, such BP’s in the Gulf of Mexico, this one was very close to the shore and has therefore contaminated the coastline more severely, Lal said.