Dutch salvage crews began preparing to pump fuel from the shipwrecked Costa Concordia on Tuesday, according to Reuters. Rescuers continue to search for bodies while heavy equipment crews attempt to remove thousands of tons of heavy diesel fuel from the vessel to prevent further environmental contamination.
Here are some facts about the environmental impact of the shipwreck and looming potential for an oil spill:
* Italian authorities remain concerned about oil spilling into the marine reserve where the shipwreck occurred, according to Reuters. The removal of lubricant oil and heavy diesel fuel were delayed for 11 days because of rescue and recovery efforts. The water around the coastal town of Giglio are part of the seven-island strand which comprise the large marine park, according to Fox News. The area is home to numerous whales and dolphins.
* The preliminary work to prepare for oil extraction is expected to take at least two days, according to Reuters. The Costa Concordia has 17 fuel tanks which may take nearly a month to pump dry. Once the divers have attached valves onto the ship's fuel tanks, the oil will be heated and attached hoses will vacuum out the oil and pump in seawater to keep the ship stabilized, according to CNN.
* Italian officials refuted reports stating the Costa Concordia had already begun leaking fuel, according to Reuters. On-site monitoring equipment has not yet registered a raise in pollution levels.
* The Meloria barge is hitched to the Costa Concordia with crews from the Smit, a Dutch salvage crew preparing for more underwater inspections before pumping begins, according to Fox News. Weather conditions will dictate how quickly the pumping is completed and the likelihood that an oil spill could still occur.
* Pumping will occur around the clock once all necessary equipment and personnel are in place. According to Italian National Civil Protection Agency head Franco Gabrielli's statements to Fox News, six of the largest fuel tanks will be tapped into first. Once hoses drain the heavy diesel fuel from the initial set of tanks, half of the vessel's fuel reserves will be empty.
* The United Nations cultural arm requested the waterway be restricted from usage by large cruise ships which often run the route to reach Venice. The organization feels that large vessels cause building foundation erosion and pollute the waterway, according to Fox News.
* Earlier this week a film of oil was spotted on the water approximately 300 meters from the shipwreck. Absorbent panels were placed in the water to attract the film. According to official statements released on Fox News, the film was thin and did not appear to possess significant toxins levels.
* Italian officials issued a formal request for debris removal to the owners of the Costa Concordia, according to the BBC. Furniture and related items from the ship have been floating in the water since the wreck and causing hazards to divers.