February 7, 2011 / 3:06 PM / in 9 years

REFILE-Iran oil slick clean-up to take 2 months -reports

(Refiles to correct month in dateline)

* Pipeline exploded last week, discharging oil into Gulf

* Newspaper reports 200 sq km slick

* Oil flow stopped but experts fear ecological damage

TEHRAN, Feb 7 (Reuters) - A 25 km-long oil slick off Iran’s Gulf shore will take at least two months to clean up and could do irreparable damage do the local marine environment, news agencies reported on Monday.

The Oil Ministry declined to comment on the spill, which reports said was caused by an explosion in a corroded pipeline last week at the port city of Daylam in Bushehr province.

ISNA news wire said the leak was fixed the following day by diverting the oil flow into an auxiliary line. But stormy weather last Wednesday washed the crude out to sea, polluting a 25 km (16 miles) stretch of coastline.

The daily Sharq on Monday said that, although the Oil Ministry has not disclosed how much oil was discharged from the ruptured pipeline, a slick covering 200 square km had formed.

“An environmental disaster is happening at Daylam as a result of the oil spill,” said Gholam-Reza Keshtkar, head of Bushshr province’s crisis management centre, was quoted by ISNA as saying.

He said the spill, some of which was on land, had polluted 100 hectares of shore land and had made some 300 hectares of farmland useless.

An official at the state Environmental Protection Organisation, Mohammad Baqer Nabavi, said: “Weather conditions allowing, the clean-up operation will take at least two months to finish.”

The head of the Persian Gulf Ecological Research Centre said the oil slick’s impact on the environment could be irreversible and that the oil is likely to advance deeper into the Gulf.

“The oil slick will undoubtedly have irreparable consequences on the sea’s eco-system,” the semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Mohammad-Sedigh Mortezavi as saying.

The state oil pipeline company, affiliated to the National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Co., did not return Reuters’ calls.

Some 40 percent of the world’s traded crude oil passes through the Gulf, where oil extraction and conflicts have posed a significant threat to the marine environment. (Reported by Hossein Jaseb; Writing by Hashem Kalantari; Editing by Jane Baird)

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