By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
MANAGEMENT at the Bahamas Electricity Corporation’s Clifton plant continue to allow waste oil to spill out of containers and drain directly into the sea, according to former State Minister for Environment Phenton Neymour.
Mr Neymour pointed to the poor management of waste oil tanks, and the use of contaminated cooling wells, as the main contributor to the persistent haemorrhaging of oil in the Clifton area.
He said that the level of oil contamination at the Clifton Pier facility was severe and required extreme remediation.
However, BEC Chairman Leslie Miller fired back at the former junior minister’s claims, charging yesterday that Mr Neymour’s bid to raise alarm over practices at the Clifton plant was politically motivated.
Mr Neymour made the claims as he led reporters on a weekend tour of the area surrounding the electricity plant, where large pools of oil had collected at the base of waste oil tanks and in trenches that reportedly led directly into the sea.
He said the corporation, Mr Miller and Environment Minister Kenred Dorsett, are fully aware of the continuing pollution despite assurances by the government that international consultants are investigating the incidents. He went on to call for the resignations of Mr Miller and Mr Dorsett.
“This is happening because BEC has serious maintenance problems with their Clifton Pier generators and they are running the generator even when the generator should be shut down and repaired – the generators are also leaking oil,” Mr Neymour said.
“BEC is wasting hundreds of thousands of gallons of waste oil at a rate that their tanks cannot hold it. The waste oil is directly being spilt onto the ground and exceeds three feet in depth. This oil is left to drain into trenches that lead directly to the sea. There is no effort to clean this up or even conceal it.
He said: “The minister of environment promised two weeks ago that experts were to arrive to investigate the oil spills. We don’t need experts to find the sources, just to pacify the public. We know where the contamination is coming from.”
Mr Neymour explained that contamination incidents at Clifton Pier have been well documented, and include gasoline, diesel, Bunker C and molasses from various sources, adding that products still exist in cavernous zones underground.
During his term in office, Mr Neymour said immediate action was taken to address negligence, end environmentally unsafe practices, and clean up contamination.
He alleged that hundreds of thousands of gallons of contaminated oil were recovered, and a waste oil boiler was purchased to burn the recovered product for additional electricity. The remediation efforts cost the corporation millions of dollars, according to Mr Neymour, who said waste oil was also sold locally to private companies for industrial use.
He added that the resurgence of oil spills were the result of an abandonment of the former administration’s directives, and a return to “slack” practices.
Mr Neymour also raised concerns that the constant pollution also put the country at risk of breaching international protocols by exposing passing international ships to contaminated oil.
“As a result they are carrying contaminated oil on their outer walls that breach international environmental protocol. This concern has repeatedly been expressed to the government of the Bahamas. Yet no action is being taken.”
Yesterday, Mr Miller told The Tribune there was oversight of the waste tanks, adding that there was work to be done and he would speak about the matter in a later interview.
Said Mr Miller: “Mr Neymour seems to know more about BEC after he left, than in the five years he was at the corporation, when he never went to Clifton. I don’t have time for him, he’s looking for play in the newspapers to show the FNM because he’s running for chairman.”