A major incident has been declared after an oil and reservoir fluids leak from Britain’s largest onshore oilfield into Poole Harbour on England’s south west coast.
Around 200 barrels of reservoir fluid and oil – approximately 11,000 gallons – spilled into Poole Harbour – an area of special scientific interest and nature reserves – following the leak at Wytch Farm oil field in Dorset, operated by Perenco UK.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has told people not to swim in the area and advised anyone “who has come into contact with the spill should wash immediately with soap and water. If eyes have come into contact with the spill, they should be rinsed with water “
The incident was reported at 1.43pm on Sunday (March 26). Poole Harbour Commissioners (PHC) implemented the oil spill plan as the pipeline under Owers Bay was closed with booms installed on either side of the leak.
CEO of PHC Jim Stewart said a “gold command unit has been established” after the major incident was declared and an assessment is being carried out. He repeated the UKHSA’s advice for people not to swim in the area.
Leader of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council Phillip Broadhead said they are “liaising closely as part of long-established mechanisms with a variety of parties as this situation unfolds.”
Broadhead posted a statement on Twitter, saying: “As leader of the council, I will, along with the senior council team, be working to see what implications this leak may have and what action we may need to take.
“It is of course extremely disappointing to hear of this event, and while there will be a time later for anger and investigation, our focus now must be on ensuring we can mitigate any impacts of this situation.”
Wytch Farm is a mature oil field that has been extracting oil and gas from sandstone and limestone since 1979. It is one of Europe’s largest onshore oilfields and accounts for 80% of the UK’s annual onshore production.
In a statement following reports of the leak, general manager of Perenco UK’s Wytch Farm, Franck Dy said “any spill is an extremely serious matter” and that a “full investigation will be launched to ascertain what happened at Poole Harbour.
“It is important to stress that the situation is under control, with the discharge of fluids having been stopped and the spill is being contained.”
Just Stop Oil said Poole Harbour is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) which the government said they would protect. “But toxic spills are an inevitable consequence of our continued reliance on oil,” the environmental campaign group said on Twitter.
Local people are being asked to join “together in grief and anger” at Poole Harbour at 4.30pm on Monday (March 27) to tell Perenco the release into the harbour “is not acceptable and never again!”