A GOVERNMENT minister has said a full investigation will be carried out into the oil spill in Poole Harbour.

The assurance came after South Dorset MP Richard Drax told the House of Commons it was estimated that nearly 5,000 litres of fluid – 85 per cent water and 15 per cent crude oil – had leaked from an underground pipeline.

The operation to combat the spill is ongoing, with helicopters, drones, vessels and on-shore patrols involved in the operation.

Mr Drax, who raised an urgent question in parliament following the incident, which started on Sunday, said: “Having spent many, many years either near, in or under the water in Poole Harbour, I am acutely aware of the area’s sensitive environment both on land and under the sea.

“To that end I am very concerned at this spill which is potentially catastrophic and let’s not forget that many thousands of humans who enjoy the harbour, especially in the summer.”

Dorset Echo:

Mr Drax described Poole Harbour as “one of the most beautiful and fragile ecosystems” in his constituency.

He told the House of Commons that a “handful of birds” had been found covered in oil, while the effect on the marine environment was unknown.

The leaking underground pipe, which is operated by Perenco Oil and Gas, is located in a “very sensitive, marshy, low-lying area in the south of the harbour”, Mr Drax said.

He asked minister for environmental quality and resilience Rebecca Pow to ensure the regulator carried out a full investigation into why the leak occurred and once identified, ensures any repairs are done to the highest standard.

The Conservative backbench MP also asked Ms Pow if she will seek assurances from Perenco that the rest of their network is being properly maintained and checked.

Dorset Echo: South Dorset MP Richard DraxSouth Dorset MP Richard Drax (Image: UK Parliament)

“We do not want this to happen ever again,” Mr Drax said.

Ms Pow said she gave “absolute assurances” a full investigation was under way and she would follow the situation very closely.

The minister said: “It is critical that the investigation is carried out so we got the full details of what occurred, exactly where the leak was, exactly which bit of pipeline it was and then the full detail of how to react and what needs to be done in terms of clean up and so forth in future can be put together and carried out.

“The pipe has been shut off and depressurised to prevent any discharges.”

Earlier, Ms Pow said the cause of the spill had been reported as a “fault with a land-based pipeline”, however, the reason for this issue was not currently known.

Poole MP Sir Robert Syms and North Dorset MP Simon Hoare also spoke in the House of Commons.

Sir Robert said the incident would “clearly” impact public confidence which is why an inquiry was needed. He also said fisherman and companies in Poole Harbour may need compensation.

Mr Hoare said the tourism economy was important in Dorset and the use of the water for recreational purposes was “pivotal” to this.

He said it will be important for the area to be able to spread the message that the water is safe to use so visitors are not put off coming to the county.