By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
THE oil spill clean-up at the Equinor South Riding Point facility in East Grand Bahama seems to have slowed down over the past several months, with some areas of the forest still covered with oil.
It is believed the COVID-19 pandemic which forced the shutdown of the economy in late March could have been the reason for the suspension of the clean-up operations by Equinor officials.
When contacted this week, an official spokesman for the company said Equinor remains committed to its clean-up operations in East End.
“Equinor has, ever since the oil spill resulting from Hurricane Dorian, shown strong commitment to the cleaning-up operations. The work has been performed in close cooperation with the Bahamian government and related agencies. We do not comment on any litigation involving the company nor do we speculate if litigation will be brought against the company,” the official said.
The Tribune understands environmental activists at Save the Bays and Waterkeepers Bahamas were scheduled to visit the site yesterday to see for themselves the condition of the surrounding environment and areas that were affected.
Last September, 55,000 barrels (2.3 million gallons) were spilled at the Equinor terminal during Hurricane Dorian, which tore off the dome caps from two of the four storage tanks containing oil. A large area of the nearby forest, north of the terminal, was significantly affected. A total of 1.8m barrels were being stored at the facility at the time.
Described as a “catastrophic spill” by environmental activists, the company was urged to commence an immediate clean-up of the spill and the surrounding environment. It has been recently reported that close to 60,000 barrels of oil and water have been recovered.
However, Save the Bays and Waterkeepers Bahamas have made three visits to the site in June. In a recent video, Fred Smith of Save the Bays is seen in the affected forest area, expressing concern over remnants of oil still left there.
According to Equinor’s website, the monitoring of water wells will continue throughout 2020. Some 27 wells were drilled in the area for testing of groundwater. As of January 2020, the company reported there had been no sign of contamination of groundwater as a result of testing conducted by independent contractors and third-party laboratories.