Remediation efforts underway, Clarke says
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Grand Bahama could be facing an ”environmental catastrophe” following an oil spill at Equinor — formally known as Statoil — in East Grand Bahama, according to Bahamas Nationa Trust (BNT) Executive Director Eric Carey, who pointed to widespread and long term environmental implications if left unaddressed.
Carey called on government to hold Equinor fully accountable.
“It is our view that Equinor must fund the costs of these assessments [and] all recovery efforts and to establish long-term monitoring programmes to ensure the communities do not suffer from prolonged hydrocarbon exposure,” Carey said.
With Grand Bahamians are still reeling from the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Dorian last week, Carey said the top priority should remain on ensuring the wellbeing of people, but he noted that the incident is alarming and could have “catastrophic” implications.
“We have seen photos of oil tanks a few spilling crude over their burns and it appears to be breeched…. so the impact of marine and the environment is great,” he said. “This can be a serious environmental disaster that we need to get on top off because this could be catastrophic.”
In a statement released late Sunday, executives of the BNT asserted that the spill is has already compromised ground water, polluting it with hydrocarbons that can have a long-lasting impact on communities.
“Oil also kills many plants and animals, especially red mangroves and corals, therefore exacerbating the effects of the hurricane on the nearby ecosystems,” read the statement. “This is particularly concerning for the three nearby protected areas, the Lucayan National Park, the Northshore and Gap National Park and the East Grand Bahama Protected Area.
“BNT staff hopes to confirm the extent of the leak that is visible above ground. However, in the quickest time possible, the BNT intends to ensure that proper assessments of the full extent of the spill and impact to the wildlife, and a mapping of the extent of the leak into the ground water.”
On Saturday, newly appointed chairman of the National Disaster Committee, John Michael Clarke, noted that government has been in contact with company officials on the reported spill and remediation efforts were underway.
“The company has deployed a vessel containing remediation equipment from a Louisiana Port headed to Grand Bahama and will arrive in 90 hours at the terminal,” Clarke said.
He added that a 16-man team flew to Grand Bahama on Sunday morning to begin to contain the spill at the site. Clarke also said the company advised that it has outsourced remediation material from Buckeye, another storage facility on the western end of the island to begin cleanup.
But Carey said given the timeline the damage could be irreversible.
He said, “I think the company must have as a priority to get a hold and on top of [this] thing. If they don’t, it will have a long term impact on human health and people. We need to jump on this right away.”
Carey said he also anticipates for government’s established Oil Spill Committee to be fully engaged in the process.
Calls placed to Minister of the Environment Romauld Ferreira were not returned.
In a statement follow his assessment of Grand Bahama, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Phillip Davis said there are concerns about a possible risk to the water table, triggering a public health crisis.
He called for an immediate assessment to mitigate against an “environmental catastrophe.”