By RIEL MAJOR
Tribune Staff Reporter
DESPITE Equinor revealing that the amount of crude oil which spilled from its Grand Bahama site was less than previously announced, Save the Bays chairman Joseph Darville said this does not diminish the catastrophic impact upon the island's environment, water table and pine forest.
In an interview with The Tribune yesterday, Mr Darville said it was mystifying that Equinor keeps changing the figures of the amount of oil spilled from its South Riding Point facility.
"That's really puzzling because they were the ones who kept giving out different figures. It's really puzzling, it's really not significant whether it was 55,000 or 119,000 barrels. The fact is that it was sufficient to create havoc with our environment," he said.
"Now with this change in figures, I don't know what the game is that they are playing. Whether they're saying it's not as much as they had previously or initially indicated, because at one point in time they said it was 54,000 (barrels), the numbers keep changing and we don't know."
On Friday, the international energy company released a statement that stated additional surveys were conducted by Equinor and two external companies. The surveys revealed the updated estimated volume of the oil spill at the South Riding Point terminal after the impact of Hurricane Dorian was 55,000 barrels (2.3 million gallons) - less than half the initial volume estimate of 119,000 barrels (5 million barrels), Equinor said.
"The updated estimate is made by Equinor and surveyor companies AmSpec and Oil Inspections following a transfer of oil from the damaged tanks to secure tanks at the terminal last week," Equinor added.
"The South Riding Point terminal stored a total of 1,870 million barrels of oil when Hurricane Dorian struck. The new surveys confirm that 1,815 million barrels of oil are still intact in the tanks at the terminal. That means 55,000 barrels is the updated volume estimate for the spill. Most of the spilled volumes were within or near the terminal area.
"More than 50,000 barrels of oil have already been recovered. The calculation of oil spilled versus oil recovered will likely never fully match as the collected oil also will contain water."
Yesterday, Mr Darville questioned why it took so long for Equinor to arrive at a correct figure.
"Initially they should have known what amount of crude oil they had in those tanks. Our government should have known what's here," the Grand Bahama-based activist said. "The moment they were able to assess what was spilled in the tanks then they should have known what was outside of the tanks. That's simple, you don't have to be a (rocket scientist) to know that."
He added: "If something is spilled out of something, you measure what was left in a container and you know what was spilled. That is simple primary school math so it is really puzzling.
"I don't care if it was a gallon or 90,000 gallons. The fact is that enough of our environment has been impacted that we don't even have an estimate as when that will return back to a normal state of existence as it was given to us by Mother Nature."
Mr Darville commended Equinor for conducting its own water investigation into the matter but suggested the process should be monitored by the Environmental Health Department.
"They should not be doing this on their own. We are objective NGOs - Save the Bays and Waterkeepers Bahamas - and so we have the right to go in there and use scientific instruments that we have. That are the highest quality that one can find today in the world and in the labs in Washington where these were examined and it was determined that the wetlands have been polluted by oil as a result of the spill," he noted. "They are going to carry out their own (investigation), that's fine. But who is going to monitor this? Where is there going to be the examination of the samples that they drill up? And who is actually going to monitor them? We didn't drill any wells; we took water from the surface of the wetland."
He added: "We didn't have to drill any wells so if they're going to drill a well into our water fields, then what is the possibility that there would be further contamination of the water table in that regard? What I'm saying to Equinor and my government (is to) monitor this very carefully."
In its statement on Friday, Equinor said it is committed to cleaning up after the incident. Currently, more than 350 responders from 14 nations - including more than 100 responders from the Bahamas - are working on the recovery operations, the company said.
"The clean-up operations have expanded to the forest areas north-east of the terminal," Equinor said. "Specially trained teams have started the clean-up work in the most impacted part of the forest, supported by the Shoreline Clean-up and Assessment Technique (SCAT) team and safety experts. Equinor's plan is to have four teams consisting of around 100 persons involved in the forest clean up.
". . . Equinor has also started execution of a ground water monitoring plan of the impacted area with approval from the Bahamian government. Final planning of well placements based on plume extension and hydrological understanding is ongoing. Suppliers and equipment for drilling the wells are currently being mobilised."
Equinor said it will establish a long-term monitoring plan of ground water and for the affected forest areas to be submitted to local authorities.