MORE than 100 oil workers have been evacuated from a North Sea platform after their drinking water was found to be contaminated with diesel.
The workers were taken off the North Cormorant oil rig on Monday, after the problem was discovered the previous day.
After initially providing staff with bottled water and trying to flush the diesel out of the system, bosses discovered more intensive cleaning was required.
All 134 non-essential members of staff were then airlifted in 10 helicopter flights. Ingesting only small amounts of diesel can cause dizziness, nausea and vomiting.
The 54 remaining staff members have been supplied with bottled water and microwave meals to keep washing up to a minimum.
Last night a spokeswoman for Taqa Bratani, the company which operates the rig, insisted the evacuation was not an emergency one and that no one had consumed the tainted water.
She said: “Further cleaning is taking place to ensure no diesel remains on the walls of the water pipeline or the tank.
“The welfare of the people on board the installation is our main priority.
“As the installation now has no running water, a down-man of those people who were not required for the continued safe operation has taken place.”
Most of the evacuated workers were taken to airports in Shetland to make their way home, while 17 were transferred to another rig.
The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) regional organiser, Jake Molloy said water contaminations incidents were not unusual but could cause “no end of greif” for those affected.
“The real problem starts now in trying to clean all the systems out. That’s the real task they have got,” he said.
“The pipelines have to be emptied and flushed out and there will have to be major cleaning exercises before staff can go back.
“It’s a welfare rather than a safety issue. If you can’t shower or get a drink of water you can’t carry on working.
“There’s no significant risk to staff- it’s more about accommodating them in an environment where they have ready access to clean, drinking water and can live reasonably comfortably.”
It is not known how the water supply was contaminated but an investigation is believed to be under way.
The cleaning is expected to take a few days.
The North Cormorant rig is situated more than 300 miles north-east of Aberdeen and produces around 9000 barrels of oil a day.