Hong Kong beaches shut down due to palm oil spill

The Sai Wan beach in Hong Kong. Source: Shutterstock

TEN beaches in Hong Kong were closed to the public over the weekend due to a palm oil spill from a ship collision in mainland Chinese waters.

Congealed palm oil – in the form of cottony clumps – washed up on the shore while a fishing village popular with tourists saw oil residue and rubbish.

According to South China Morning Post, local residents noticed oil clumps on the sand and floating in the water that looked like “blocks of Styrofoam” or “cooked rice”. Lamma resident Sheila McClelland told the publication she also noticed a “faintly chemical odor” as she inspected the solid lumps.

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“I pressed it with my foot and it was solid. It was a bit like Play-Doh but not as nice,” she said. “I’ve lived here for a couple of decades and I’ve seen many forms of pollution and unpleasant stuff from oil, syringes and of course the [2012] pellet spill. But nothing like this.”

Another Lamma resident Stanley Chan Kam-wai said because some of the oil is starting to congeal, it disintegrates into powder like snow when pressed.

“I’m very concerned about how the government will clean this up.”

He said he was concerned about the non-government-run beaches being ignored while efforts are taken to clean up government-run beaches.

Beach workers have been working to conceal the mess while relevant government departments have been called upon to monitor the water quality of the affected areas.