U.S. Water News Online
TOKYO -- Cleanup crews and residents along this secluded coast -- a favorite tourist spot 200 miles west of Tokyo -- have been working to remove the sludge washing ashore from a Russian oil tanker that recently split in two.
The tanker broke apart on rocks near Mikuni this January, spilling approximately 4,500 tons of oil into the sea. The bow is still stuck on the rocks with 2,500 tons of oil inside.
Japanese officials now admit the government misjudged the seriousness of the oil spill that is now polluting local fisheries and fouling the shorelines along much of Japan's west coast. The government mistakenly believed the tanker could be easily salvaged, said a spokesman at Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto's official residence.
At first, Hashimoto thought the oil was a conventional type that would freeze in the cold water, making it easy to clean up, said a spokesman for the government. But the oil turned out to be a non-freezing type often used in Siberia, where the ship was headed.
Despite local governments' calls for aid, the central government took until January 17 to set up a committee of Cabinet ministers to find out what caused the accident. Fishermen fear the spill will ruin the seaweed, abalone, and shellfish cultivated in the area.
The weather -- high winds and 20-foot waves -- has also blocked the usual cleanup methods, such as spraying chemicals to dissolve the oil, officials said.
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