By Paige McCartney, The Tribune
Environmentalists took Minister of the Environment and Housing Romauld Ferreira to task yesterday for what they perceived as him making light of the oil spill in eastern Grand Bahama.
Save the Bays Chairman Joe Darville said he was shocked and astounded, while reEarth President Sam Duncombe said she was astonished, by the government’s response to the oil spill that emanated from the Equinor terminal at South Riding Point.
“I wasn’t just shocked, I was astounded by his response. Mr. Ferreira is a friend of ours, he’s worked diligently with us in our environmental cases against people who offend our environment and I could not believe it,” Darville told Guardian Business.
“I’m sure he was trying to be funny, but that came across as being crass stupidity and for that to come out of the mouth of someone over a very serious problem in that area and even though at the present time they may be addressing it expeditiously, it took them more than ten days after the storm to really dedicate any sort of cleanup of that environment.”
Darville was responding to Ferreira’s comment that three birds and one goat were impacted by the oil spill.
“To treat that in a callous way is not the way to address a catastrophic situation like that,” Darville said.
“My heart just bled for that whole environment out there and of course we stopped in High Rock, we were tracking where the oil could have come and it came 1.62 miles, we measured from Equinor into High Rock and it pooled in an area there where the seawall had fallen in and also the road.”
Duncombe added during a separate interview, “For the government to downplay this issue and make it sound like, ‘Oh it’s okay’, no there’s nothing okay about it. There’s absolutely nothing okay about it. This kind of catastrophic situation underscores the cries from environmentalists in the country that have been saying for decades we need to move away from fossil fuels, we need to look at renewable energy.”
When Category 5 storm Hurricane Dorian ripped through Grand Bahama earlier this month, the lids from a few of the holding containers which stored approximately 1.9 million barrels of crude oil blew off.
The government has said it is satisfied with the efforts made by Norwegian-based Equinor to remediate the spill, despite the company taking longer than a week to start the cleanup process.
Ferreira said so far about 6,000 barrels of oil – which equates to about 252,000 U.S. gallons – have been cleaned from the surrounding area.
Darville said the damage has already been done.
“The very first chance I had I actually went out there and had some reporters who were here from Norway, because the company comes from Norway, and they were absolutely astounded at the amount of oil that was there and so visible along the public roads, emanating out of the property at Equinor,” he said.
“From their views it’s going toward the north toward the mangroves at North Riding Point. But we could see by eye from the road 450 liters where the oil had saturated that whole area and at that point in time, our native Caribbean pine that stands about 35 feet tall, as tall as the Equinor office building, they were saturated with oil.”
Duncombe added that she doesn’t believe a spill of that magnitude could ever fully be cleaned.
“When you have that kind of oil spilling out onto the land environment, it’s going to seep down and affect the ground water. It’s going to affect all of the soil and for the communities that live around that area, you’re talking about exposure from smelling these chemicals all day which can cause nausea, headaches and longer term impacts because you’re constantly inhaling these toxic chemicals,” she said.
“The response from the government to the oil spill has been just astonishing really, because it’s almost as if they’re mollycoddling them. This is a huge environmental impact to Grand Bahama, it’s a huge impact to the water table, it’s a huge impact to the marine environment, animals in the marine environment that are coming into contact with that oil.”