COLOMBO — Authorities in Sri Lanka say they have largely contained a fire on board a cargo ship off the island’s west coast, but now face the task of cleaning up the tons of plastic granules it was carrying that have washed up along a wide swath of the coast. Compounding the scale of the environmental hazard is the possibility that the pellets, known as nurdles, are contaminated with chemicals from the ship, the Singapore-flagged X-Press Pearl. The ship, newly commissioned in March this year, caught fire on May 21 shortly after leaving western India bound for Singapore. The fire broke out as it was anchored off Colombo, awaiting permission to unload Sri Lanka-bound cargo, but was brought under significant control by May 30 with help from India, authorities said. Darshani Lahandapura, chair of Sri Lanka’s Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA), told Mongabay that while it was too soon to pin down the cause of the fire, “we believe it was due to a chemical reaction due to leakage of nitric acid.” The ship was carrying 25 metric tons of nitric acid (HNO3), generally used in manufacturing fertilizers as well as explosives. The ship was also carrying three containers of plastic pellets, each weighing 26 metric tons; some of the 25-kilogram (55-pound) bags from the containers fell overboard, and the beads have now carpeted beaches all the way down to the south coast of Sri Lanka. A container that fell overboard from the X-Press Pearl after it caught fire off…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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