Environmental Crisis! Toxic Peroxide Found on Dutch Beach

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Toxic Peroxide Found on Dutch Beach After Cargo Ship Loses 277 Containers says The New York Times.

Authorities deployed to attend

The Dutch authorities were struggling to respond to a possible environmental crisis after a cargo ship sailing the North Sea during a storm lost 277 giant shipping containers, including at least one carrying a toxic substance.

The Netherlands deployed 100 troops to help clean up after the Panamanian-flagged cargo ship MSC Zoe hit “heavy weather”. Hundreds of the colorful containers were thrown overboard, Mediterranean Shipping Company, which owns the vessel, said in a statement.

Huge loss and damage

Shipping accidents are inevitable, they rarely occur on this scale. “It does happen from time to time that ships lose a few containers,” said Wendy Geertsma, a spokeswoman for a government agency responsible for safety in the northern Dutch province of Friesland.

“But never that many, and here we’re dealing with three containers filled with toxic substances, too.”

What was in the container?

Ms. Geertsma said, among the thousands of containers that the MSC Zoe was carrying to the German port of Bremerhaven from Antwerp, Belgium, on Wednesday, three contained seven tons of peroxide powder each in small bags.

One such bag was found on Thursday on a beach in Schiermonnikoog, a Dutch island near the German border and it was not clear how many of the three containers went overboard.

Is peroxide powder toxic?

Organic peroxides are acids used to synthesize other chemicals commonly found in disinfectants or cleaning products.

They can cause minor irritation upon contact with the skin in low concentration, and can be highly toxic in higher concentration or if inhaled.

Containers broke open! Contents spilled

Some of the hundreds of containers thrown overboard have broken open, spilling their contents into the frigid waters and onto beaches nearby. The others are thought to have sunk.

A few containers were still bobbing in the North Sea on Friday, imperiling sea traffic, and 22 had washed ashore by Friday afternoon, safety officials in Friesland said.

Volunteers cleaning efforts

Clothing, packaging and light bulbs have washed up on Dutch beaches, where volunteers and local politicians worked Friday alongside Dutch soldiers in cleanup efforts.

The debris appears to be concentrated on the Frisian islands of Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog. Ineke van Gent, the mayor of Schiermonnikoog, called the accident a “disaster for nature,” and asked for emergency help.

The local authorities were also quick to warn volunteers in the cleanup not to touch any of the white bags, asking that they call emergency services workers to collect them.

He noted that Schiermonnikoog was one of the country’s “most scarcely populated islands, with the least capacity for volunteering, and it’s there that most of the rubbish is washing ashore.”

Recovery Initiated

The Mediterranean Shipping Company said in a statement on Friday that it was using fast boats to tow drifting containers and sonar-tracing vessels for underwater recovery. It also deployed drones to try to prioritize what to recover.

Investigation planned

The MSC Zoe has arrived in Bremerhaven, Germany, where the authorities said they planned to investigate what might have happened during the storm.

The Dutch authorities said on Friday that they were opening a criminal inquiry.

Damage to  fauna and flora

It is not clear if more than one of the containers carrying peroxide powders spilled its contents. Seven tons of peroxide thrown into the North Sea — assuming the two other containers remained safely onboard — could do considerable damage to fauna and flora and could harm people who touch or inhale it, safety officials warned.

Peroxide might lose its toxicity

One good thing is that the peroxide powder is biodegradable and loses its toxicity after roughly 30 days in contact with water, the officials said.

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Source: NYTimes

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