French refinery leaks toxic chemicals into marine life area

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PARIS: An orange-brown chemical sheet spread over 15 acres (6 hectares) in a nationally recognized marine area in the French Mediterranean Sea following a leak at a petrochemical plant in southern France, the local fire service said on Friday.
The leak at the Levera refinery spilled 200 gallons or more of iron chloride into the ocean, US-owned chemical company KM One, which runs the plant, said. Contact with iron chloride can damage the eyes and mucous membranes, and ingesting it can be fatal.
Refinery officials said the problem was reported at 1:50 pm Thursday at the processing plant at Martigus near Marseille. He said iron chloride fell from a tank over a faulty safety system, which flowed into the nearby sewage system and into the ocean.
The region of the Mediterranean where the chemical ran out is listed in a French list as an ecosystem of excellent natural fauna and flora for its coral and marine life. Officials at the scene said they saw fish that had been killed by the spill.
The French Maritime Prefecture banned leisure yacht cruises, swimming, fishing and diving about four miles along the coast around the contaminated area until at least midnight on Friday. The prefecture told The Associated Press that he was waiting for the results of the toxicity test before declaring the water safe.
The AP reviewed four legal orders from local authorities managing the plant, demanding more stringent safety regulations, reinforcement of storage equipment and adherence to the refinery’s liquid waste management guidelines. About 40 firefighters were dispatched to the site where the chemical spill was unable to stop, the Marseille Fire Service told The Associated Press.
The polluted area reached 2.5 acres (1 ha) by 6:30 pm. By Thursday, and Friday morning, the brown color had disappeared from the ocean’s surface.
The French environmental association Robin des Bois said it planned to file a legal complaint against plant officials for sea issues and other issues based on an assessment of its damage. The association said it is suspected that coral and other marine organisms were burned or poisoned by spilled iron chloride.
Group spokesperson Charlotte Nithart told the AP that the plant “has been on our radar for a few years” and that it needs to “deeply inspect” its storage capacity.
“The damage that will be determined will be repaired by the people responsible for it,” French Environment Minister Barbara Pompili said on Twitter on Thursday.

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