Environmentalists have raised concerns that the waters around Yaylata in northern Bulgaria could be polluted as rescue workers unload nitrogen fertilizers from the Panama-registered cargo ship Vera Su, which has been in operation since Nov.
Environment minister Asen Lichev told the media that the Black Sea waters near the site are being monitored for pollution, but that the biggest ecological risk, an oil spill, was prevented by dumping the marine fuel.
“The major risk to the environment was prevented after we dried out the oil from the reservoirs,” Lichev said.
“I have commissioned the regional environmental inspection to monitor the waters within a radius of one kilometer [from the ship] So we can compare the data and see if the pollution is changing, ”he added.
However, a water sample taken on September 28 by the Black Sea Basin Directorate in Varna showed pollution four times higher than normal, reported maritime.bg.
The shipwreck has caused concern among environmental activists and local residents as the ship carries 3,300 tons of carbamide-containing nitrogen fertilizers.
If the carbamide gets directly into the water, it can cause pollution that can affect marine life in the area.
In the ocean, fertilizers cause phytoplankton overgrowth, which in response produces a toxin that is deadly to marine life.
Rescue workers have dumped the fertilizer and Videos posted on YouTube have shown that the cargo is tipped directly into the sea.
A diver also posted a video, dated September 26th showing traces of manure spillage.
“The fishing industry could be the biggest loser in this situation,” wrote journalist Vera Staevska on the dnevnik.bg website.
Nickolay Valchev, director of the Institute of Oceanology in Varna, told BIRN that action must be taken quickly.
“The bad weather expected by the end of the week and the strong winds cloud the hope that the carbamide will not spread in the sea,” said Valchev.
“There is a very limited window of time to act as the weather will offer calmer conditions early next week, but strong winds will return after that,” he added.
He accused the authorities of acting quickly enough to resolve the stranded cargo issue.
“We have been talking much more intensely about the problem with the media than with the relevant institutions,” he said.
Windy weather in the middle of the week has also delayed rescue workers’ progress. Operations are currently suspended until weather conditions improve.
On Wednesday, Interim Transport Minister Hristo Alexiev described the situation as “seriously inadequate” and criticized the measures taken by the naval administration, which, in his opinion, had not been coordinated with any other institution.
On the same day, the director of the naval administration, Zhivko Petrov, was dismissed and a crisis team took over.
On September 24, Petrov told the media that it was “almost impossible” to free the ship and that dismantling was a possible option.
Marine Administration officials declined to comment immediately when contacted by BIRN.
The ship got stuck because a navigation error brought the ship dangerously close to the coast.
According to marinetraffic.com, the ship is owned by Vera Su Ltd. and drove from the Ukrainian port of Yuzhny to Varna.