By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE government is considering hosting a town meeting for Marathon residents to address “unnecessary fears” over the underground gasoline leak at a nearby service station, Environment Minister Kenred Dorsett revealed yesterday.
Mr Dorsett said there was no cover-up on the part of the government as it related to public information concerning the 2012 gas leak at the Rubis Bahamas service station at Robinson and Old Trail Roads.
He explained that the independent report prepared by consultants Black and Veatch will have to receive clearance from the Attorney General’s Office before findings are released, due to the ongoing civil litigation between Rubis Bahamas and Cable Bahamas.
“There is no cover-up at all,” Mr Dorsett said. “My understanding is that members of the Department of Environmental Health Services, as well as the BEST Commission, have been in those neighbourhoods and have been in contact with the locals.
“If there certainly is a need for further dialogue, then I think the next step for us is to arrange a town meeting which I have suggested to the member of parliament for the area, my colleague Jerome Fitzgerald, for us to have a dialogue with the residents.”
Mr Dorsett spoke to The Tribune outside the Cabinet office yesterday, more than seven months since he promised a comprehensive statement on the gas leak.
Marathon residents claim they have received no information from the government about remediation plans for the area, or the results of initial tests conducted to determine their level of exposure. It was further alleged that no health assessments have been conducted in the area to date.
Mr Dorsett said: “One of the things that needs to be done is there has to be a conversation about health-related issues and so we’ve had some discussions with the Minister responsible for health, whose team have been involved to ensure that they are also a part of the dialogue and the conversation, but there definitely is no cover-up at all.”
“The only thing that we were waiting on (before releasing the independent study),” he said, “is because there was ongoing litigation between Rubis and Cable Bahamas. I think that we have sought the advice of the Attorney General’s Office on the matters, and so we’ll be directed by her office as to what ought to be released particularly having regard to that litigation.
“As far as the health component of it, I’ll have to let my colleague, the Minister responsible for Health speak to that. We’re dealing with the environmental and the remediation aspects of that but, like I said, no stone will be left unturned in terms of addressing this.”
Mr Dorsett denied allegations that the government has not kept residents informed about the issue and maintained that there was still ongoing communication between Rubis, Cable Bahamas and “all of the residents”.
“Water and Sewerage is involved,” he said, “the Department of Environmental Services and the BEST Commission and so at the end of the day Rubis is aware that there is going to be ongoing assessments, ongoing work, which include the residents off Robinson Road and Old Trail.”
Concerns over fuel spills from the service station at the Robinson Road and Old Trail Road intersection remain unanswered after more than 20 years, according to area residents.
Rubis entered the Bahamian market in mid-2012 after Chevron concluded the sale of its fuel marketing and aviation businesses in the Bahamas, Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos to Vitogaz, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the French multinational.
According to documents obtained by The Tribune, the Ministry of Public Works responded to complaints of fuel fumes at Cable Bahamas’ Customer Service building on October 2, 2012.
It has been alleged that some 30,000-gallons of gasoline leaked from underground storage tanks and contaminated groundwater in the surrounding area.
Cable Bahamas has filed a civil action suit in the Supreme Court, seeking $15m in damages and compensation for the 18-month, pollution-enforced closure of its customer service building. The telecommunications provider has stated that more than 40 of its employees had to receive medical treatment.
Yesterday, Mr Dorsett said: “I know that I have seen communications in my ministry from one or two residents; my understanding is that there has been ongoing dialogue, but if there is a need for a town meeting I have absolutely no objection to that.”
He added: “Those discussions have been taking place between me and the MP Jerome Fitzgerald in terms of facilitating that and so I think that will be the next step to allay any unnecessary fears that may exist.”