Exeter hospital to face bill for clean up after polluting a stream
A “significant” oil spill which created a stink in a stream trickling through Exeter has left hospital bosses with a warning and a bill for a clean up operation.
The Environment Agency had received numerous reports from concerned members of the public after they noticed a what was described as “strong odour” and “oily sheen” in a stream flowing through Ludwell Valley Park in Exeter.
The pollution was investigated and found to be coming from a surface water outfall in the park.
Absorbent booms and pads were deployed to soak up the oil, but the spill continued and mechanical equipment had to be brought in to remove oil from the stream.
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Drainage contractors assisted by agency officers traced the source of the oil to the Royal Devon and Exeter (RDE) Hospital at Wonford where heating oil was found entering a surface water drain.
Chris Sargent, of the Environment Agency, said clean up was under way and the RDE had been given a ticking off.
“We have formally warned the hospital about the incident and will seek to recover the cost of investigating the pollution,” he said.
“We will work with the hospital to improve practices on site and reduce the risk of this happening again.”
As soon as the source of the leak was found, the trust which runs the hospital immediately appointed firms of specialist consultants and contractors to stop any further leaks and to install a temporary fuel storage system while a full investigation was carried out.
The leak was found to have been caused by a broken underground fuel line and had remained undiscovered for some time.
The spill was significant and involved thousands of litres of oil.
The hospital has now allocated funding to replace the oil-fired boilers with gas to prevent any further incidents.
Cliff Barnes, deputy director of strategic capital planning at the RDE, said action was taken the instant the source was identified.
“As soon as we were alerted to this leak, we took prompt action and within 24 hours we had mitigated the risk to the stream and park users,” he said.
“The support and expertise of the Environment Agency was a key factor in helping us to contain this as quickly as possible.
“We have now decided to replace all oil-fired boilers to the residences blocks with gas so that this type of accidental leak can never happen again.
“This work is due to start in October this year.”
It is believed most of the oil that leaked has permeated into the ground, but some found its way into the surface water drainage system.
It was this that was seen by members of the public in the stream in Ludwell Valley Park.
The clean-up operation which is still under way, involves working at the site to minimise any further impact to the stream and the wider environment.