Oil on the ground at the Equinor facility in Grand Bahama.
THE impact of Hurricane Dorian on Grand Bahama, which caused an oil spill from the South Riding Point storage facility, should teach the government a lesson and lead to a definitive rejection of the Oban refinery proposal, according to one environment group.
Fred Smith, legal director of of Save the Bays, said the government would be “insane” to continue courting another facility of this kind.
“The government will have to ensure Equinor urgently cleans up the South Riding Point and High Rock area,” he said. “They would be insane to create an even larger threat to the pristine and ecologically invaluable eastern end of the island.”
Mr Smith said oil refineries are bastions of an outdated and defunct form of energy production and produce very few jobs for locals with the profits all being shipped overseas into the bank accounts of foreign owners.
“It is, and has always been a lose-lose scenario for Bahamians and the time has come to put an end to it. The government must tell Oban to take a hike,” he said. “Climate change means that storms will only get stronger and more frequent; a disaster on the scale of South Riding Point or even greater is not a question of if, only a question of when.”
The Norwegian oil company Equinor has said it is working to clean up the oil spilled from its terminal when Hurricane Dorian blew the tops off oil storage tanks.
STB Chairman Joseph Darville visited the site of the spill last week and claimed that evidence of the oil contamination was visible at least a mile and a half away.
A STB press release said the roof of the company’s building appeared to have been stained by the oil slick. He said the canopy of the surrounding pine forest was saturated with oil at the same level for a distance of 400 metres from the oil plant.
“The beach in High Rock, east of the terminal, was befouled with oil for more than a mile and a half,” he said. “I have no idea how far the oil drifted south into the water, but if you consider that the wind was coming from the north and, with gusts well above 200mph, was so strong that it pushed a storm surge over 30 feet high, the consequences for the seabed and marine life on the south side of Grand Bahama are terrifying to contemplate.
“We saw no one doing any kind of clean-up,” he said. “In fact the only people we saw were two security guards, who told us we were not allowed to fly our drone to take aerial shots of the spill.”
Equinor has said clean up of the oil spill is underway.
“It is still Equinor’s assessment that no oil is leaking from the terminal,” according to the company. “An area with suspected oil spill in open water has now been confirmed to be a patch of seaweed. Another area with potential product 70-80 kilometres north east of the terminal on the other side of the island has been observed from air and results are being processed. Currently, there are no indications that the terminal is the source for this.”
Regarding the proposed Oban oil refinery project in East Grand Bahama, Mr Darville was adamant.
“This is a warning,” he declared, “that we need to permanently shelve this foolish, asinine, ignorant proposal for good. It would be unconscionable for the government to move forward with this proposal now.”