Oil on the ground at the Equinor facility in Grand Bahama.
By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
INITIAL assessments of the oil spill in Grand Bahama have revealed the matter is of “no concern” to public health and has caused no impact to the marine environment, National Emergency Management Agency spokesperson Carl Smith said yesterday.
Speaking during a NEMA press conference, Mr Smith added that Equinor, the company that operates the facility, would be sending in an “active clean up crew” from the United States that same day to “manage that oil spill”.
State Minister for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson also addressed the oil spill yesterday.
Speaking to reporters outside Cabinet, he said the matter appeared to be a “spill”, not a leak, and that officials are on the ground to manage with the issue.
Hurricane Dorian stalled over Grand Bahama for two days after hitting the island late on September 1. In the aftermath of the deadly storm, photos emerged showing oil leaking from the South Riding Point storage and transshipment terminal. According to Equinor, the terminal has a capacity to hold 6.75 million barrels of crude oil.
“I wish to update you on the oil spill that occurred in Grand Bahama,” Mr Smith said yesterday. “This is the Equinor oil facility. The Ministry of the Environmental Health has conducted an assessment of the Equinor oil facility in Grand Bahama. Based on this assessment there is no reason to be of concern for public health.
“The tanks themselves appear to be structurally intact, and there is no evidence at this time of an ongoing leak. During the storm, the two domes on top of the tanks were blown off by the wind, causing oil from inside the tanks to spill out.
“Since the storm, there has been no continuous impact to the marine environment from that oil spill. An active clean-up crew from Equinor (in the US) is arriving today (September 10) to manage that oil spill.”
When asked to clarify whether there was any marine impact whatsoever, Mr Smith reiterated that Equinor was sending in a team. “Since the incident, there hasn’t been further spillage of the oil,” he added. “And based on their professional assessment, to date, they don’t think that there has been an impact on the marine environment.”
Mr Thompson echoed Mr Smith’s comments outside Cabinet.
“Unfortunately there was (an) oil spill,” Mr Thompson said. “It appears as though it’s not a leak, but it was a spill as a result of the high winds in the hurricane. The Equinor company has already been on the ground, they have already been communicating with the government and NEMA and the Ministry of Environment. The Ministry of Environment also is on the ground, the BEST Commission is on the ground, so that process is happening as we speak.”
When asked if he was pleased with the response, Mr Thompson replied: “There is tremendous challenges in Grand Bahama as a result of the hurricane. We have thousands of people who are needing housing, thousands of people whose houses have been severely affected as a result of the hurricane. I want to really commend though the Grand Bahamian spirit because those Grand Bahamians have a stickability that is huge.”