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Amazzone: what has changed

Technical advances

The pollution created by the Amazzone spill was dispersed, even if on certain sites the configuration and exposition could have made for widespread pollution. This accident had a considerable impact on the coastline, considering the quantity of oil spilled.

The extreme weather conditions for the first few days hindered pollution response measures. The fragmentation at sea of the cooled oil slicks was provoked, and facilitated the dispersion of small oil "parcels" of oil over 450 km of coastline. The viscosity of the Amazzone's oil and the bad weather delaying and hindering response at sea, contributed to an increase in the onshore pollution. Clean-up operations were complicated, due to the extent of the pollution and the diverse nature of the littoral. These conditions meant that response teams had to apply many varied response means.

Science has progressed in terms of the knowledge of the chemical behaviour of different oils. Having abandonned the idea of pumping at sea, of treating with chemical dispersants and of trawling, the scientists had to come up with onshore means. Cedre assisted the communities in their choice of recovery and selective treatment means. Manual and mechanical methods were proposed by experts, allowing the oiled seaweed to be collected and eliminated. An in situ pebble clean-up machine was used for the first time, allowing the pebbles to be put back in their original environment. The strip of pebbles in the Bay of Audierne was thus preserved. Adapted evacuation techniques (helicopters, flat-bottomed barges) were necessary in problematic situations, for sites that were difficult to access.

No major changes

This disaster, the subject of a considerable amount of media coverage, marked the history of pollution in Brittany. It forced pollution response methods to evolve and highlighted the importance of an oil spill information network. Lessons learned from the incident resulted in a valuable contribution to the revision of Finsitère's Polmar Land Plan, set up the previous year. It was clear that there was a real need to develop a pollution response stockpile and the improve on land response strategies. Research projects were undertaken on the problems linked to waste evacuation means especially in difficult access zones.

However no changes were made in terms of prevention and general policies on the risks posed by passing ships. This may be because, 10 years on, the memory of the somewhat more catastrophic Amoco Cadiz spill was still too fresh in people's minds for a 2000 tonne pollution incident to generate any major initiatives.

Last update: 01/07/2003