An aerial view of the oil spill in Exuma. Photo: Reno Curling
By JADE RUSSELL
Tribune Staff Reporter
A LOCAL environmental activist is “exceedingly happy” that action is being taken against the company responsible for last summer’s Exuma oil spill, adding it has been long overdue.
Joseph Darville, of Save the Bays and Waterkeepers Bahamas, made these comments on Friday a day after Attorney General Ryan Pinder said that the company responsible for the diesel spill that occurred in Exuma last July will face penalties.
The incident resulted in 35,000 gallons of diesel being spilled into waters off an Exuma bay as a vessel contracted by Sun Oil was offloading fuel to Bahamas Power and Light at George Town.
Mr Darville said: “I mean that was obvious, that the people should be penalised for what happened.”
When asked if he was satisfied that penalties were being levied against the company, Mr Draville replied he was “exceedingly happy” by the announcement.
“I was exceedingly happy that finally, the Attorney General made that particular announcement. I support it 100 percent. It should have been said long before now, just as we should have had an announcement for Equinor and also in Grand Bahama and also the situation in Abaco.”
Although incidents are bound to happen, Mr Darville stressed that operators must be able to provide a certificate that their vessel is “seaworthy” before traversing in Bahamian territory.
He suggested it would prevent fewer accidents of negligence by checking to see if a vessel is fully up to par, adding that the country has “territorial waters” that need to be protected.
“You got to make sure that the message goes out there that any vessels traversing in our territorial waters must be as secure as possible. I know that incidents will happen, there's no doubt about that at all. But the fact is that we have traditionally paid very little attention to what is traversing our national waters.”
Mr Darville continued: “We have territorial waters that we have to protect because that's our livelihood. We got 100,000 square miles of ocean, we have only 6,200 square miles of land. And by the end of the century, we're going to have less land because of sea level rise. And so we got to be able to make sure that we maintain the pristine aspect of our ocean.”
In terms of penalties for the Onego Traveller ship that sank with heavy fuel on board off Abaco in December, Mr Pinder said on Thursday that officials are still awaiting final reports.
“We’re still awaiting final reports from the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection and the Department of Environmental Health Services. That ship is still there, and we have issued an order for it to be removed from The Bahamas.”
He said the government gave the ship’s owner 45 days to remove it from Abaco waters.
Asked about the sunken ship in Abaco, Mr Darville said he is confident that a decision will be made at some point.
“Well definitely that is still fluid and so one cannot determine now at this particular point in time, what reparations should be made to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas for whatever damage being done to the seabed and to fisheries in that area.
“And so I am certain that a specific time when he (the Attorney General) has all of the information. Then we will hear a money level or money amount that would be compensated for the damage done to our environment,” Mr Darville said.