Council workers remove oil-absorbing pads from beneath the wharf. Photo Richard Jones

An oil spill from a ferry ramp at Matiatia terminal last Thursday prompted a clean-up operation from Auckland Transport – but local environmental groups were pleased to find no animal life was affected.

The leak, first noticed about 9am on Thursday, came from either the hose or a fitting on one of the terminal’s ferry ramps. A significant amount of ester-based hydraulic oil sprayed on to the pontoon and into the water, where ducks, geese, little blue penguins and other birds are often found.

Auckland Transport’s report from the incident says its staff, with support from road maintenance contractor Downers, were able to contain 98 percent of the oil by early Thursday afternoon.

Booms were left floating inside the pontoons overnight and by Friday afternoon council workers were still working with hooks and white pads designed to absorb contaminants in the water.

The Hauraki Islands branch of Forest and Bird was also notified to assess any potential threats to local bird life.

“I had a look at the geese and ducks that were down there and none of them are showing any signs of pollution of feathers, so that was quite re-assuring,” said Forest and Bird volunteer Sue Fitchett, who surveyed the area on Thursday with council staff.

“I’ve not had any reports of damage, and the people who were working down there didn’t see anything untoward either. I had a very careful look at the bird life and didn’t see any signs of discoloration on their feathers.

“There was a slight sheen on the water, but it wasn’t severe. They had also noticed there had been a bit of a diesel contamination, which may have come off one of the boats.”

“I suggested the council alert DOC in case there was anything that happened that was unforseen. I also alerted Hue Ross of Forest and Bird, Karen Saunders of Native Bird and the SPCA just in case anybody found any wildlife or any penguins in need of help.”

AT confirmed the fluid that leaked was an ester-based oil; a man-made, chemically synthesised oil often used in air-conditioning compressors, refrigerators, industrial appliances and engines.

The incident was considered ‘notifiable’ by AT, who have logged the contamination with Auckland Council Pollution staff. • Richard Jones

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