The Lebanese coastline remains heavily polluted from last year’s Jiyyeh oil spill and cleaning efforts have not achieved the desired result, according to local NGOs.

Their conclusions contrast sharply with reports by other NGOs and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) claiming beaches were safe and the bulk of the spill had been contained.

The ominous new information was issued by the NGOs Green Line and Byblos Ecologia on the first anniversary of Israel’s bombing of the Jiyyeh power plant, which dumped about 15,000 tons of crude oil into the Mediterranean.

“The beaches are still very toxic,” said Richard Steiner, a conservation specialist from the University of Alaska, and veteran of the Exxon Valdez spill. “The oil spill is more toxic than other known spills.”

He concluded that Lebanon’s rocky beaches were still heavily polluted, with much oil still embedded in the rocks. While sandy beaches fared better, Steiner said some oil remained under the sand and on the sea bed. Steiner collected samples from 120 kilometers of shoreline.

“Lebanon needs a large-scale clean-up to remove all toxins out of the sea,” he said. “There has been extensive damage to the seabed, shoreline and sea organisms. Contrary to the UNEP [report], there was significant injury to the Lebanese marine ecosystem.”