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Divers are trying to block a slow leak in the diesel tank of a 50-tonne locomotive at the bottom of Picton harbour, as specialist airbags are prepared to float and recover the rail shunter on Friday.
The remote-controlled shunt locomotive was pushing a wagon across KiwiRail’s marshalling yards to a linkspan – a ramp from the land to a ship – and fell into the water, as there was no ship at the berth, on Wednesday afternoon. No-one was on board, and no-one was injured in the incident.
Marlborough Harbourmaster Luke Grogan, acting as regional onsite commander, said on Thursday diesel was leaking “at a slow rate” from the locomotive’s fuel tank.
“The locomotive has a diesel fuel tank with a capacity of 1000 litres and contains other engine lubricants. The exact quantity of diesel on-board is unknown,” Grogan said.
“Our estimates at this stage are that less than 15 litres has been discharged so far. The diesel is probably leaking from a fuel breather pipe which our divers are hoping to block. Other options to further prevent discharge are also being evaluated.”
The Marlborough harbourmaster closed the port shortly after the locomotive and wagon fell in the water, and a diesel boom was towed into place to contain any oil spill.
A diesel boom is towed across the Picton harbour on Wednesday, while the incoming Bluebridge ferry waits further out.
The Marlborough oil spill response team was working to recover pollutants contained by the sorbent boom, Grogan said.
Weather conditions were favourable and expected to remain calm into Friday, he said.
“Our concerns for wildlife impacts at this stage centre on the potential risk to blue penguins should a significant discharge occur. However we do have time to attempt to mitigate that risk.”
A diver enters the water where a train shunter and wagon fell into the water in Picton on Wednesday.
The team was also ensuring they responded while operating under the Government’s Covid-19 guidelines for alert level 3, he said.
KiwiRail chief operating officer Todd Moyle said the berth was usually used by the Interislander ferry Aratere, which was in Wellington at the time.
“We are naturally shocked by this event and have begun an immediate investigation into what happened,” Moyle said.
A team enters the wharf about 9am on Thursday. The locomotive is expected to be retrieved on Friday.
The investigation would include interviewing the person that was steering the remote-controlled locomotive at the time, as well as other workers onsite, he said.
The wagon, partly floating in the water, contained two empty tank containers. One had held sodium hydroxide, a compound used in cleaning and KiwiRail was still working out what had been in the other container.
The wagon was partly afloat and had been secured to the wharf on Wednesday evening, while the locomotive, weighing about 50 tonnes, was submerged under an estimated 8 to 10 metres of water.
This article first appeared on www.stuff.co.nz
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