CREWS were expected to be still at work today at the Port of Portland cleaning up a spill of hot liquid pitch that began escaping from an insulated storage tank on Saturday afternoon.
The CFA was called at about 2.45pm on Saturday after an outlet pipe attached to a 4000 tonne tank ruptured, allowing the pitch to leak into a bund.
Firefighters and a hazmat unit from Warrnambool poured thousands of litres of cold water onto the hot pitch oozing from the tank.
Along with the CFA, Victoria Police, DSE, SES, Rural Ambulance Victoria, the Port of Portland, the Environment Protection Authority and Glenelg Shire all had officers on the scene.
Smoke and vapour from the scene initially resulted in a warning for residents in the vicinity to keep doors and windows closed, and not to use air conditioners.
Eleven CFA crews worked throughout the day yesterday, to cool more than 250 tonnes of the pitch.
A number of roads, including busy Bentinck St, were closed for a time. The boat ramp was also closed and some water activities suspended. However, professional fishermen were allowed to re-enter the port just before noon yesterday. The Port of Portland was completely closed as a precaution.
The vapour from the scene had subsided late yesterday, and CFA incident controller Henry Barton said there was no longer any impact on the residential areas. As a result the warnings to remain indoors were lifted, and he said it was safe to open windows and doors.
The only closures in affect late yesterday were the Lee Breakwater Rd, Madeira Packet Rd (from Findlay St) and the Henty Hwy (from the Greenmount link), which were all in place to exclude people from the port area unless they had a valid reason to be in the area.
There have been no reports of any injuries or property damage resulting from the spill.
A community meeting was held at Hanlon Park at 8pm last night, when representatives of the CFA, Port of Portland, Victoria Police, Ambulance Victoria and the Glenelg Shire presented up-to-date information on the incident to a crowd estimated at between 60 and 80 people.
Mr Barton, the CFA incident controller, repeated the history of the incident, and then said that the EPA had monitoring equipment in the area of the tanks and in the wider community that would alert them of any emissions.
He said the pitch was leaking at a rate of five tonnes an hour, but the CFA and other agencies were working together to deal with the incident and to allow residents and businesses to operate as usual.
More details available in Monday’s edition and more to follow in Wednesday’s edition.