BNT Continues to Monitor Equinor Clean-Up
November 3rd, 2019
Press Release: BNT Continues to Monitor Equinor Clean-Up
Two months after Hurricane Dorian impacted the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama, Equinor (formerly Statoil) continues its efforts in cleaning up the onshore oil spill at its South Riding Point terminal in The Bahamas, which was damaged by Hurricane Dorian. 1.8 million barrels of oil equivalent were being stored at the time the hurricane hit. Equinor has estimated that 119,000 barrels of oil were spilled.
“The Equinor oil spill opens our eyes to the need for an Environmental Protection Act to regulate industry. Freeport is the industrial capital of The Bahamas, home to oil storage facilities, ship repair facilities, a container port, chemical plants and aggregate mining. These activities have tremendous environmental, social, cultural and planning impacts.” commented Eric Carey, BNT Executive Director.
This incident certainly prompts BNT to restate its opposition to the OBAN project proposed for East Grand Bahama. This incident serves as a potential window into the future, presenting what could possibly happen to such a facility in the event of another hurricane, or accident at the facility.
Recently the Minister of the Environment tabled the Environmental Planning and Protection Act 2019, the bill seeks to establish the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection, to provide for the prevention or control of pollution, the regulation of activities, and the administration, conservation and sustainable use of the environment and for connected purposes. This bill seeks to address the regulatory oversight that is needed for the industrial sector and development in general.
“The BNT endorses and supports this new legislation which will provide organized statutory regulatory frameworks for both foreign and domestic investors”, said Carey. “We believe that these investors will comply with this environmental legislation if it is set out and administered by properly funded and resourced agencies and we encourage the Government of The Bahamas to quickly move to put the legislation in place. We strongly feel that no new applications for oil storage or oil exploration should be considered before the appropriate regulatory legislation and commitment to enforcing it is in place.”
The National Oil Spill Contingency Advisory Committee (NOSCAC) is overseeing the cleanup efforts that are being led by the Ministry of Transport and Local Government and has representatives from the Bahamas Environment Science and Technology Commission (BEST), Local Government, Civil Aviation, Bahamas Customs Department, Bahamas Maritime Authority, Port Department , Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources, Forestry Unit, Ministry of Environmental Health Services, Ministry of Health, Bahamas Agriculture and Industrial Corporation, Ministry of Public Works, and the Bahamas National Trust (BNT).
Members of the NOSCAC have conducted several site visits and confirm that approximately 290 workers are working doing 24 hour shifts in the cleanup efforts. A spill response team has started to recover oil from the ground and move it into tank storage. According to Equinor 30% of the spilled oil has already been recovered and the cleanup continues.
“When the roofs blew off the storage tanks, the oil was blown to the north onto the land and not south into the sea. It is still a disaster, but dramatically less than it could have been. The prevailing current on the south shore of Grand Bahama is from the south-east to the west. If it had blown into the sea, it would have drifted to Gold Rock Beach in the Lucayan National Park, Peterson’s Cay National Park, Barbary Beach, Royal Caribbean’s Lucayan Beach into the many miles of Freeport’s canals, along the rest of Freeport’s beaches, into Freeport Harbour and eventually West End,” said Eric Carey, BNT Executive Director.
Equinor has identified Polaris Applied Sciences, Inc. as one of the numerous habitat restoration agencies providing services to the company. The scope of work is reported to include: develop and receive approval for a waste management plan; survey the area; identify appropriate treatment; assess and rehabilitate wildlife as necessary; and assess and remediate groundwater as necessary. They have contracted Wildlife Response Services (WRS) to assist in wildlife rescue and they will be rehabilitating and coordinating reports to the Government on impacted wildlife. Animal Care Facilities are set up at the terminal facility and will remain as long as free oil is in the area.
Waterkeepers Bahamas, Save The Bays, and Waterkeepers Alliance recently released a report on their independent analysis of the spill. This assessment looked at five (5) locations where fifty-four (54) individual samples were analyzed by a certified water testing lab in Wilmington N.C., and found compounds consistent with petroleum such as alkalines, terpenes and organic acid well above natural occurrence levels.
“The Waterkeepers analysis is a good start, but what we are waiting for is a comprehensive environmental impact report and remediation plan. We still have yet to see any ground water testing or plans for long-term monitoring,“ said Shelley Cant- Woodside, BNT Director of Science and Policy.
One of the main concerns, according to the BNT and partnering agencies is that the oil will eventually make its way expanding into more of the nearby wetlands, and deeper into the island’s freshwater reservoirs. Wetlands serve as places where water is filtered before entering the underground water table. The oil would diminish the quality of the island’s groundwater for drinking and freshwater resources. Wildlife that depend on wetlands for habitat for feeding and breeding will also be negatively affected.
The Bahamas National Trust was created by an Act of Parliament in 1959 to build and manage the national park system of the Bahamas. BNT’s mission is to protect and conserve the natural resources of The Bahamas, through stewardship and education, for present and future generations.