Italy’s Largest Inland Oil Spill (2010)

Italy suffered its largest inland oil spill on February 23, 2010, when millions of gallons of oil was maliciously drained into a tributary of the Po River.  Considered an act of sabotage—perhaps in retaliation by dismissed workers—the perpetrators have never been caught.

The discharge occurred from storage tanks along the Lambro River, an upstream tributary of the Po River.  The Po is Italy’s longest river, flowing 400 miles west to east across the northern expanse of the nation, from the border with France and Switzerland to the Adriatic Sea just south of Venice.  The river drains about a quarter of the Italian land mass, making it the largest watershed in Italy and one of the largest in Europe.  The valley of the Po, called the Pianura Padana, is home to 17 million Italians (one-third of the total population), the cities of Milan and Turin, and the rich agricultural districts of Lombardy, Liguria, Emilia Romagna and others.

The spill occurred when saboteurs released 825,000 gallons of diesel fuel and fuel oil from tanks at an abandoned petroleum refinery about 20 miles north of Milan.  The oil entered the Lambro River and shortly reached the main stem of the Po River.  The Lambro has been considered the most polluted river in the entire Po basin, which includes more than 140 separate streams and small rivers.  The oil slick extended over one mile and continued moving rapidly down the Po River, eventually reaching the Adriatic seacoast.

Although the release probably occurred at the hands of disgruntled refinery workers, Italian authorities called it “a true act of environmental terrorism.”  Observers recorded hundreds of dead and moribund ducks and other birds, and fishermen along the river described the situation as “a stinking mess.”

This spill, however serious, ranks well down the list of major oil spills.  The biggest in Italian waters was the breakup and sinking of the oil tanker MT Haven, off the coast at Genoa on April 11, 1991.  A total of 44 million gallons were released.  The largest purposeful release of oil occurred during the first Gulf War, when retreating Iraqi troops sabotaged Kuwait oil wells and terminals, releasing 168 million gallons into the Persian Gulf and billions of gallons onto the Kuwait landscape.

References:

Giari, L. et al.  2012.  The impact of an oil spill on organs of bream Abramis brama in the Po River.  Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 77(1 March 2012):18-27.  Available at:  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0147651311003393.   Accessed February 22, 2017.

Mosello, Beatrice.  2015.  How to Deal with Climate Change?  Springer International Publishing, Switzerland.  (Chapter 4 – The Po River Basin).  Available at:  http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-15389-6_4#page-1.  Accessed February 22, 2017.

Oiled Wildlife Care Network.  210.  Italy Oil Spill.  Available at:  https://owcnblog.wordpress.com/2010/03/01/italy-oil-spill/.  Accessed February 22, 2017.

Squires, Rick.  2010.  Italy’s longest river facing catastrophe after oil spill.  The Telegraph, 25 Feb 2010.  Available at:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/7315220/Italys-longest-river-facing-catastrophe-after-oil-spill.html.  Accessed February 22, 2017.

This Month in Conservation

January 1
NEPA Enacted (1970)
January 2
Bob Marshall Born (1901)
January 3
Canaveral National Seashore Created (1975)
January 4
The Real James Bond Born (1900)
January 5
National Bird Day
January 6
Wild Kingdom First Airs (1963)
January 7
Gerald Durrell Born (1925)
January 8
Alfred Russel Wallace Born (1823)
January 9
Muir Woods National Monument Created (1908)
January 10
National Houseplant Appreciation Day
January 11
Aldo Leopold Born (1887)
January 12
National Trust of England Established (1895)
January 13
MaVynee Betsch, the Beach Lady, Born (1935)
January 14
Martin Holdgate Born (1931)
January 15
British Museum Opened (1795)
January 16
Dian Fossey Born (1932)
January 17
Benjamin Franklin, America’s First Environmentalist, Born (1706)
January 18
White Sands National Monument Created (1933)
January 19
Yul Choi, Korean Environmentalist, Born (1949)
January 19
Acadia National Park Established (1929)
January 20
Penguin Appreciation Day
January 21
The Wilderness Society Founded (1935)
January 22
Iraq Sabotages Kuwaiti Oil Fields (1991)
January 23
Sweden Bans CFCs in Aerosols (1978)
January 24
Baden-Powell Publishes “Scouting for Boys” (1908)
January 25
Badlands National Park Established (1939)
January 26
Benjamin Franklin Disses the Bald Eagle (1784)
January 27
National Geographic Society Incorporated (1888)
January 28
Bermuda Petrel, Thought Extinct for 300 Years, Re-discovered (1951)
January 29
Edward Abbey, author of “Desert Solitaire,” Born (1927)
January 30
England Claims Antarctica (1820)
January 31
Stewart Udall, Secretary of Interior, Born (1920)
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