Groundwater up to two kilometres from the site of the Buncefield oil depot has been found to be contaminated with hydrocarbons and toxic chemicals from fire-fighting foam, over a year after the explosion which led to the pollution.
In December 2005 a leak led to a massive explosion at the oil depot north of London and a major operation was launched to put out the blaze.
At the time, analysts thought that favourable weather conditions carrying the plume of thick black smoke high into the sky and away from populated areas would mean environmental impacts would be minimal(see related story).
But the Environment Agency has released figures showing that levels of toxic chemicals from the smoke itself as well as the hazardous PFOS used in the fire-fighters’ foam are still above safe levels more than two kilometres from the site.
The EA is waiting to hear from the owner of the Buncefield depot, Hertfordshire Oil Storage Limited about its proposals for treating the contaminated groundwater which will have to be approved by the agency before they are put into action.