By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
DEPUTY Prime Minister Peter Turnquest told Grand Bahama residents that Equinor has given its commitment to do what is right regarding the clean-up and investigation of the oil spill at its South Riding Point terminal in East End.
At a town meeting on Monday evening, the MP for East Grand Bahama said: “Equinor has given their commitment and has demonstrated that they are going to do what is right by the community, and they have…assets to back that up.
“And so, the investigation as to what happened or why it happened, and what would be the government’s response to that is to be determined between the Ministry of Environment and the AG’s Office, and they will do that work, and progress from there.”
No one from Equinor was present at the meeting, organised by local government, held at St Jude’s Church Hall in Smith’s Point.
Last Friday, Equinor reported that the updated estimated volume of the oil spill after Dorian was 55,000 barrels (2.8 million gallons) – less than half of the initial reported estimated volume of 119,000 barrels (5 million gallons).
This change in figures has raised questions from the environmental group Save the Bays, which is questioning why it has taken Equinor so long to arrive at a correct figure.
During a town meeting in Smith’s Point, a resident of East Grand Bahama raised concerns about the oil spill.
In response, Mr Turnquest reported that some 53,000 barrels of oil and water were recovered, and that clean-up was progressing.
“If you drive past, the area is in tremendously better shape than it was. There are still some areas to clean, and some forestry remediation work to be done, and protocols for that will proceed with BEST Commission.”
He informed residents that Equinor will proceed with investigations and is in the process of drilling some test wells to test the ground water for contamination.
“Even though the initial reports are there is no contamination, that oil has not seeped into the ground, they are drilling test wells to test water to make sure that is, in fact, the case,” Mr Turnquest said.
The East GB MP stated that the company would continue ground water testing in the future because “it takes time, if there is anything (oil), to percolate down to the water table.”
Mr Turnquest also said the company has conducted air testing in the area.
“They have from the beginning had air monitors to investigating air testing for air pollution, which has been below any area of concern.”
While Save the Bays Chairman Joseph Darville commended Equinor for conducting its own water investigation into the matter, he suggested the process should be monitored by the Environmental Health Department.
The South Riding Point terminal had 1,870 million barrels of oil stored when Hurricane Dorian struck the island. Two of the three tanks that contained oil were compromised.
The company has reported that the new surveys confirm that 1,815 million barrels of oil are still intact in the tanks at the terminal.
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,” he said on Sunday.
Despite the new figure, the activist said this does not diminish the catastrophic impact upon the island’s environment, water table and pine forest.
“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,” he told The Tribune.