Getting the blue sea back after oil pipeline explosion

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A week after the oil pipeline explosion on the Dalian coast, ocean cleanup efforts are making real progress.

Li Jie, 25, did not hesitate to cut her 40-centimeter long hair short and donate the clippings for the cleanup efforts in Dalian.

Workers relocate an oil obstruction belt which was washed ashore in Dalian bay, Liaoning province, last Thursday. [China Daily]

Workers relocate an oil obstruction belt which was washed ashore in Dalian bay, Liaoning province, last Thursday. [China Daily] 

On July 24, one week after a massive explosion of an oil pipeline in the port city, Li's hair was spun into a 300-meter long oil boom, which was placed at Fujiazhuang beach, south of the city, to absorb the oil slick and prevent it from polluting the beach. "Dalian is my hometown. I grew up at the shore. I became very anxious watching the once blue sea ruined by the oil spill," Li said.

So when she learned that the Dalian Environmental Protection Volunteers Association (DEPVA) was collecting hair to create oil-absorbing booms, Li was determined to say goodbye to the long hair she has grown continuously for more than three years.

She and others who live nearby are trying to make the best of the situation.

"When accidents happen, complaints and rumors only make things worse," she said.

On July 16, an explosion hit an oil pipeline and triggered an adjacent smaller pipeline to explode at an oil storage depot belonging to China National Petroleum Corp in Dalian Xingang Port.

By July 26, the majority of the heavy crude that gushed into the sea has been cleaned, and workers have prevented the contamination from reaching international waters or the Bohai Bay, according to Dalian vice mayor Dai Yulin.

The cleanup has involved 266 oil-skimming vessels and 8,150 fishing boats. Also, maritime agencies and oil companies have laid down more than 40,000 meters of oil barriers and 65 tons of oil-absorbent mats.

Besides the official governmental work, thousands of volunteers like Li, and local fishermen have put their arduous efforts into cleaning up the beach and sea.

About 2,000 volunteers, including college students, workers, and even elderly people and children, joined the hair-for-oil campaign, donating about 430 kg of oil-absorbing materials such as hair and pet fur, stuffing it into 1,000 pairs of pantyhose.

"We learned the method from the US-based nonprofit group Matter of Trust, which is deploying hair booms in the Gulf of Mexico," said Tang Zailin, office head of the association.

According to Tang, the boom was picked up the next day as there were few oil slicks along the Fujiazhuang beach. The boom will be cleaned and placed on other beaches, he said.

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