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HomeNewsWA: Whistleblower claims oil spill cover up near Karratha

WA: Whistleblower claims oil spill cover up near Karratha

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A whistleblower claims energy giant Santos covered up the full extent of an oil spill off Western Australia’s north.

Independent ACT senator David Pocock tabled a statement from the whistleblower before a senate estimates hearing on Thursday, along with photos appearing to show the alleged spill and a dead dolphin in waters off Varanus Island.

Santos Limited owns an oil and LNG facility at the island, which forms part of the Lowendal Islands archipelago west of Karratha.

In the statement, the whistleblower said they worked for Santos last March.

“I witnessed an incident – and subsequent cover-up – which forced me to confront questions about organisational values and my own responsibility as an employee,” the tabled statement said.

They said it was early one morning when they noticed a thin film of oil around the island.

“Over the coming hours we would learn that a subsea hose had been torn as it was loading an oil tanker parked a kilometre from the beach,” the statement said.

“The tear had been left unidentified for more than six hours, pouring a reported 25,000 litres of [oil] into the ocean.

“The mood on the island became sombre when learning that dead dolphins, including a pup, were found floating in the centre of the spill; in other areas, sea snakes writhed in agony.”

The worker said they were shocked when a month later a Santos statement described the “minor spill” as causing “negligible harm to the environment.”

“Santos had not mobilised environmental assessors to the island until a week after the incident … they could not have known the real scale of impact, it was never checked.”

NCA NewsWire has contacted Santos for comment on the allegations.

Following the incident in March, a spokesperson for Santos said “the condensate evaporated naturally within 24 hours and the impact to the environment is negligible.”

Senator Pocock said the testimony and images he tabled on Thursday were very distressing.

“It begs serious questions about the adequacy and effectiveness of regulatory systems supposed to protect our marine ecosystems, and about the conduct of the parties involved,” said Senator Pocock in a statement.

“I applaud the whistleblower’s bravery in coming forward with this information and look forward to it being thoroughly investigated.”

Greenpeace Australia Pacific has called for a full investigation into the claims.

On February 9, work resumed on a Santos platform at Varanus Island where a small gas leak had been detected in November, resulting in a pause to production, and disrupting WA’s gas supply.

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