NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper has questioned whether the government is monitoring Equinor’s remediation efforts after its September oil spill.
The company – formally known as Statoil – confirmed that 55,000 barrels of oil spilled at the South Riding Point facility in East Grand Bahama during the passage of Hurricane Dorian.
“The people of East Grand Bahama now face the fallout of the Equinor oil spill without any serious protections being in place beforehand,” said Cooper, as he contributed to debate on a compendium of environmental bills on Wednesday.
“The pine forest has been seriously damaged.
“Equinor tells us there is no more oil on the ground at the facility, but are we to seriously trust Equinor’s word on that?
“I’m not aware of anyone from the government monitoring very closely what Equinor is doing.
“I’m not aware of any environmental agency, government or otherwise, verifying the company’s claims.”
Equinor has begun to demobilize its heavy machinery as oil spill recovery efforts on Grand Bahama shift focus to the nearby impacted forest for the next six months.
The company has reported that all of the free standing oil and oil liquid from the spill has been recovered – 58,000 barrels of liquid.
It has also said that the first round of testing from wells monitoring the spill revealed there has been no groundwater contamination.
“Equinor has initiated a surveillance and monitoring program to ensure quality of the groundwater in the areas impacted by the oil spill from the terminal after the impact of hurricane Dorian,” the company said in a statement this week.
“The first testing from 22 monitoring wells has now been completed without detection of any groundwater contaminant from the oil spill.
“There is no detectable concentration of petroleum hydrocarbons and no detectable concentrations of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene or xylene.”
The company noted that additional groundwater wells will be drilled going forward.
But Cooper said he was not convinced.
On Wednesday he asked, “Who has checked this independent of them?
“Was it Equinor who said that three birds and one goat were impacted by the oil spill?
“Who has checked on the three birds and one goat?
“Can we say independent of Equinor that they are all okay?”
Cooper added: “I sincerely hope someone has had the conversation with Equinor about the level of compensation it is the government of The Bahamas and the people of East Grand Bahama.
“Perhaps we should have this tested and monitored on our behalf by an expert international independent firm, with experience and expertise in these matters.
“I often find we are reactive as a country, particularly with this administration.”
Equinor has said that independent analysis of the groundwater samples will be conducted by the Department of Environmental Health Services in the Ministry of Environment and Housing.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has announced that the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) will provide assistance with the government’s Equinor oil spill follow-up.