RENA Maritime NZ Update (99)
Sunday, 23 October 2011 7:00 a.m.
Following discussions with the Bay of Plenty Medical Officer of Health, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) has this morning relaxed restrictions prohibiting swimming at the main Mount Maunganui beach.
A section of beach between Mauāo, or the Mount, and Tay Street was re-opened to the public on Friday, but restrictions on swimming remained in place.
However, MNZ National On Scene Commander Alex van Wijngaarden said public health officials had now confirmed it was safe to swim, as long as members of the public continued to exercise caution.
"We've now had 12 days without any significant release of oil from Rena," Captain van Wijngaarden said.
"We are continuing to clean and re-clean the open stretch of
beach and we are confident the amounts of residual oil in the water
However, Captain van Wijngaarden said there was still oil in the environment and people needed to be vigilant if they chose to go into the water.
"People should be careful and look out for any sign of oil contamination. Although the residual oil is a lot less toxic than fresh oil, people should still avoid it."
The rest of the beach, from Tay Street to Maketū, remained closed to the public.
Captain van Wijngaarden said for areas west of Mount Maunganui and east of Maketū, people should take care and avoid the water if they suspect it to be contaminated.
There is detailed public information available at http://www.toiteorapublichealth.govt.nz/rena_public.
Sports such as kayaking and boating where there is unlikely to be contact with floating oil are likely to be safe, but vigilance is required.
People should continue to avoid direct contact with the oil and if they do smell or see oil in the water, they should leave the area.
People are also encouraged to report any oil they see to 0800 OIL SPILL.
"We are maintaining responsive and vigilant clean-up and wildlife recovery operations," Captain van Wijngaarden said.
"We are following up all reports of oil and oiled wildlife in the environment and continuing to send teams and equipment where they are needed."
MNZ Salvage Unit Manager Bruce Anderson said continuous pumping of oil from Rena had continued overnight. An update on the amount of oil removed would be provided this afternoon.
"Today the salvage team will be focusing on speeding up the flow rate. We have good weather and will take advantage of it while we can."