Environment Minister Ferreira inspects $10m Clifton Pier oil containment construction project

Romauld Ferreira, Environment & Housing Minister (left) reads over plans for the new project with Anthony Ryan, Public Analyst, Environment Ministry; and Robert Mouzas, Senior Structural/Civil Engineer. (BIS Photos/Gena Gibbs)

By Gena Gibbs, Bahamas Information Services

NASSAU, The Bahamas — Building an oil containment tank at the Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) Headquarters is the Bahamas Government’s latest priority: On Thursday, Minister of the Environment & Housing, the Hon. Romauld S. Ferreira visited Clifton Pier to inspect the construction, view the plans, and speak one-on-one with those working in the field.

The joint project of the Ministry of the Environment & Housing and the Ministry of Works, will cost the Government almost $12 million to build, which includes a contingency budget, in order to permanently prevent chronic oil spill accidents from occurring near the barge docking at Clifton Pier.

Minister Ferreira explained, “We are building first the containment wall. We are building a new bulkhead, which will prevent the seepage of oil from the site in the ocean; and designed into that bulkhead are sumps where the oil will actually collect and then we’ll extract it. So, our first goal is to prevent oil from going into the ocean and that’s what you saw going on there today.

“Now the bulkheads being installed are specifically designed with safety features to prevent the oil from seeping out.  Sheet pilings are going inside every joint and each joint is sealed with “bentonite” to prevent seepage, and then behind that is a barrier membrane that’s being designed by AGO Syntex.  All of that is to prevent the oil from migrating from the site into the ocean, as what’s happening now.”

Minister Ferreira said the Ministry of Works has about 630 feet installed and the target deadline is June 2018.  He added that for at least 20 years or more, the oil seepage at Clifton Pier has been causing environmental concerns that were never addressed, until now.  Such seepage will no longer pose a threat.  The Ministry of Works engineers and contractors started the endeavour in November 2017 and are working diligently around the clock to meet the June deadline for completion.

“Now another source of oil into the ocean is through the cooling water discharges at BEC,” said Minister Ferreira.  The proposal is to build a purposeful device called an oil-and-water-separation system, in which as the discharge waters leave the site — any oil in that system is removed and then only clean water goes out.  The purpose of this is to stop the pollution at Clifton Pier.”