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Byron Shire
May 13, 2021

No oil spill at Belongil

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A spokesperson for the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has ruled out an oil spill at Belongil Creek estuary, which was reported in some media earlier this week.

On Monday, Echonetdaily and other media outlets were approached by a Belongil resident who was concerned that a large dark formation in the surf at the mouth of Belongil Creek might have been an oil slick.

Byron Shire Council (BSC) and Roads and Maritime Services NSW inspected Belongil beach following the reports of a spill but found no evidence of an oil slick in the Belongil Estuary.

BSC acting general manager Ray Darney said staff inspected the Belongil Creek estuary opening and beach late Tuesday afternoon.

‘The Belongil mouth was closed at the time but it could have been open during high tide and running into the sea earlier in the day. However, there was no oil spill to be found. This included no surface scum or oil residue on the sand,’ he told Echonetdaily.

‘Council will continue to monitor the situation,’ he added.

NPWS spokesperson Lawrence Orel believes the slick-like appearance of the water was likely the result of a naturally occurring phenomenon.

‘It would appear to have been surf diatoms,’ he told Echonetdaily.

Surf diatoms are microscopic, single-celled plants that can sometimes be seen in massed concentrations along the coast.

‘Diatoms are naturally abundant throughout the coastal zone and from time to time, when conditions seem suitable, they can appear in large enough numbers and concentrations to be seen with the naked eye,’ he said.

‘Surf diatoms are generally found in the broad shallow surf zone, with breaking waves. Diatoms are not toxic, although they may cause some irritation to some people so it is advisable to avoid swimming in dense patches or at least shower after swimming.

‘If people come across brown, coffee-coloured patches of water and the foam feels gritty when rubbed between the fingers, it is most likely to be a natural accumulation of surf diatoms. Unlike oil spills, surf diatoms have no smell of oil and do not leave an iridescent sheen on the water surface.

‘Oil spills often result in sticky patches on the sand along the tide lines.’

Readers are reminded to report any pollution incident including oil spills to the pollution hotline. Free call 131 555.


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