IT COULD be months before the true damage of the major oil spill in Poole Harbour is realised, a wildlife body has said.

Following reports oil had washed up on the shores at Brownsea Island, the Dorset Wildlife Trust has said attempts to contain the liquid had “not been fully effective”.

The Trust’s chief executive urged company Perenco, which owns the oil field at Wytch Farm where the leak happened on Sunday, to deploy more resources to prevent a “devastating impact” on the island’s wildlife.

Brian Bleese said: “Whilst we were initially encouraged and reassured by the action taken to contain the oil spill, it would appear that the containment has not been fully effective.

“Dorset Wildlife Trust received information that the pipeline in Poole Harbour had been depressurised but was still leaking fluid.

Bournemouth Echo: Brian Bleese of the Dorset Wildlife Trust.Brian Bleese of the Dorset Wildlife Trust. (Image: Dorset Wildlife Trust)

“We have asked Poole Harbour Commissioners for further information on this and they have categorically assured us that the pipeline is no longer leaking and they are very happy with the containment measures that have been put in place.

“It is now a matter of urgency that Perenco commit to deploying more resources to clean up the oil before it has a potentially devastating impact on the bird breeding season. We will not have a full picture of the damage caused to wildlife for weeks, if not months.”

The Trust also said shellfish and mollusc populations, which feed by filtering seawater, could be contaminated by the pollution – in turn affecting seabirds and seals.

An estimated 100,000 litres of oily/water mix has now been recovered from the water. In addition, an estimated two tons of contaminated sediment has been recovered to the waster reception facility on the Port Estate.

This comes after Defra minister Lord Benyon told the House of Lords the government will make sure Perenco pay for damages associated with the leak.

On Friday, March 31, Poole Harbour Commissioners' CEO Jim Stewart said: “There is product in the immediate area around the leak source and some oil remains within the contaminated area. Whilst some contaminated oil remains in the pipe, Perenco have taken mitigation measures to minimise the risk of further oil going into Poole Harbour.”

Bournemouth Echo: Poole Harbour.Poole Harbour. (Image: PA/Ben Birchall)

Franck Dy, Perenco UK’s Wytch Farm general manager, said: “The spill remains contained and clean-up operations are progressing well with the majority of the released oil now having been recovered.

“The location of the leak has been identified but the cause of the leak continues to be investigated by Perenco in close consultation with all regulatory bodies and the local authorities. After the investigation, we will take on board any lessons to prevent a recurrence.

“The integrity of the Wytch Farm infrastructure undergoes regular maintenance and inspection with a complete and thorough survey of this pipeline completed less than ten months ago. Operations at Wytch Farm remain temporarily suspended.”

Regarding Perenco’s response to paying for the clean-up, a spokesperson told the Echo Perenco “knows its responsibilities and is committed to the complete clean-up”.

A NOTAM (Notice to Air Missions) restriction is in place in Poole Harbour until April 9.