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Oil spill – appropriate measures taken, Minister
By Gladstone Thurston
Dec 7, 2012 - 9:44:11 AM

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The Ministry of Environment and Housing is “committed to ensuring that all is being done” to limit the environmental impact of oil spills in Freeport, Grand Bahama and Rock Sound, Eleuthera, a press conference was told on Thursday.

The Ministry and its relevant agencies - the Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology Commission (BEST) and the Department of Environment Health Services (DEHS) - are “actively engaged in ensuring that remedial measures are undertaken” in the wake of the spills, the Minister, Kendred Dorsett said.

In Freeport, after the hole in the stricken vessel was plugged, the remaining fuel was transferred into a secure tank.

The vessel, MSC Eugenia, is berthed at Freeport Harbour, being prepared for dry-docking.

During the transfer of the fuel remaining in the vessel’s tank, said Mr Dorsett, three layers of containment booms were deployed to militate against possible release into the wider environment.

Approximately 10 metric tons of fuel was released and oil skimmers were deployed to collect it from the boomed area.

“This was a ‘Tier 1’ release, and our policies inform that it can be adequately managed by the party responsible for the release, either alone or in collaboration with their partners,” said Mr Dorsett.

“Nevertheless, agencies of the Government were immediately mobilised for oversight. “Our focus was, and is, on remediation measures to protect the environment.”

The response company, Resolve Marine, was advised against using a chemical dispersant to accelerate the dissipation of the released fuel, said the Minister.

Such an application, he said, might become entrained in the marine water column, becoming more bio-available to marine organisms, thereby having a potentially negative impact on marine biodiversity.

“It is preferable to let nature take its course, with mechanical action of the waves facilitating break up of the fuel, allowing natural attenuation to occur, and allowing the dispersed material to flow with the natural tide into the Atlantic Ocean, where there are no land based resources at risk,” said Mr Dorsett.

The Government’s team reported that the released oil would likely be transported by tidal action into the Florida Straits and out into the Atlantic. No land or land-based resources appeared to be at risk.

“We are satisfied that appropriate measures are being taken, and all necessary personnel in place,” said Mr Dorsett.

A formal report is being compiled and will include the team’s assessment of any environmental impact associated with this incident.

As investigations are ongoing and the Government relies on information from its technical agencies, said Mr Dorsett, “we will ensure that the public is kept abreast on the status of this matter.”

On Tuesday the BEST Commission was informed of a fuel spill at the Rock Sound, Eleuthera Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) plant.

A BEC team from New Providence travelled to Rock Sound that day and along with DEHS assessed the situation and devised a response plan.

Baychem, a New Providence-based company, has been mobilised to excavate contaminated soil and backfill with clean soil.

“The area of concern is some distance from the shore, so there is no marine impact,” said Mr Dorsett. “The Water and Sewerage Corporation has been alerted to the spill and is looking into its possible impact on the water table.”

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