Officers from the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Minerals and Energy undertook a low-altitude helicopter-based survey of the islands and waters of the Lowendal and Montebello island groups on 16-17 August 1999, to investigate the environmental implications of an oil spill from the Varanus Island Marine Loading Terminal located approximately 4.2 km north east of Varanus Island. The survey consisted of general observations from the air, supplemented by on-ground observations and collection of beach sand samples from 11 sites on six islands within the Lowendal and Montebello island groups that were considered to have had the greatest likelihood of having come into contact with spilled oil.
There was no evidence of oil on any beaches/rocky shores of the Lowendal and Montebello island groups or on the water swface within or around the island groups during the aerial survey.
There was no evidence of oil on beaches. The strandline was clear of oil. There were no oiled wildlife seen and no visible hydrocarbon layering in the sand profile to a depth of approximately 50 cm and no hydrocarbon odours noted in surface sands or in subsurface sands or water. All mangrove communities examined appeared healthy and showed no signs of oiling or stress.
Beach sand samples contained no detectable benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene or xylene and no detectable petroleum hydrocarbons (C6-C9, C10-C14, C15-C28, C29-C36).