JIYYE, Lebanon: A solid oil byproduct that covered Jiyye’s highway and the surrounding areas over the weekend has caused car accidents and public outcry. The substance, petroleum coke, is used as fuel in industrial furnaces and had been carried by a Greek ship to the Jiyye wharf. While trucks transported it to the Siblin cement factory, the substance spilled on the road. It spread over the main highway as far as the Wadi al-Zeineh turnoff.
Traces of the substance also covered apartments and commercial areas, and people said that a smoke-like substance rose as cars drove over the road.
Strong winds hit the wharf, causing the petroleum coke to stretch further on the roads and into the air, and rain later transformed the petroleum coke’s dust into a material that is similar to diesel.
The mixture made roads slippery, resulting in four traffic accidents.
This is not Jiyye’s first encounter with pollution. During the summer 2006 war with Israel, repeated Israeli airstrikes on the Jiyye power plant caused an oil spill.
More than 10,000 tons of crude oil leaked from the plant into the Mediterranean at the time, in what has been described as Lebanon’s worst environmental disaster.
Residents gathered Monday morning in Jiyye to voice their anger with the situation.
One protester, Mohammad Serhal, said, “all of our lives are now soot and pollution.” He said one of his friends is suffering from shortness of breath after inhaling the dust from the product.
Mayors and public figures from Jiyye and the surrounding areas spoke to Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt about neglect of the port, and other pollution – including the fumes emitted by the Iqlim al-Kharroub power plant – that they say is harming residents.
The truck drivers who transported the petroleum coke said that it was finer than the type that they usually transport, and that this caused the spillage.
Street sweeping vehicles have so far failed to remove all of the material from the highway.