How much oil is buried under Norfolk’s beaches?

Gorleston beach

Gorleston beach. Picture: James Bass

From The EDP 5th March 2014: A £25,000 investigation is underway to assess the continuing impact and level of threat posed by an historic oil slick that blackened the beaches of Gorleston and Hopton more than 35 years ago.

Experts are combing a 4km stretch of beach, focusing on trenches that were exposed by severe erosion last year, in a bid to find out how much oil was buried under the beaches in 1978 and what to do with it today.

Flashback to the stricken Eleni V. With HMS Plymouth close by, the ship's helicopter ferries explosives across to the tankers hulk

Flashback to the stricken Eleni V. With HMS Plymouth close by, the ship’s helicopter ferries explosives across to the tankers hulk (31/05/1978). Source: Library.

The thick deposits are the aftermath of the Eleni V shipping disaster — the worst marine oil slick to have hit the east coast. The Greek oil tanker was sailing in thick fog when she was struck by the French bulk carrier Roseline six miles off Winterton spilling more than 5000 tonnes of oil along 35km of the east coast from Winterton to Aldeburgh

A £2m mop up operation was a race against time with wildlife and birds badly affected, the oil even reaching the seals huddled together on Scroby Sands. Among other measures it saw boreholes drilled to sink oil well below popular tourist beaches thinking it was biodegradable and would disappear. However, now stretches of beach have been much depleted the substance has begun to resurface.

The spokesman added: “Where washed up oil could not be accessed by machinery to be removed to landfill, oil was removed by hand and buried in trenches that had been dug at the back of beaches, which was an approved method of disposal at that time.

“There are no known maps indicating the exact location of the trenches. Last winter, easterly storms exposed five trenches on a relatively isolated part of the beach between Gorleston and Hopton, where the sand level has dropped in recent years due to erosion.”

Source: EDP Monday 3rd March 2014. For the full text see

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