Weeks after damage to an oil storage facility in Grand Bahama resulted in a spill of an estimated thousands of barrels of oil, Minister of the Environment and Housing Romauld Ferreira said yesterday that though thousands of barrels of oil have been collected, one goat and three birds were impacted.
The facility, owned and operated by Equinor, was damaged during Hurricane Dorian, the strongest storm on record to impact The Bahamas.
“They did extensive aerial [reconnaissance] along the entire western seaboard of Abaco and, of course, Grand Bahama,” he said outside Cabinet.
“They saw two areas of interest, but they turned out to be seaweed. They used visuals and infrared technology to do their scopes. On land, we can confirm that one goat and three birds were impacted.”
He added, “The oil was, for the most part, unable to penetrate the limestone. Limestone has a porosity of about 30 percent, and you’re dealing with very thick, viscous [substance].
“Dealing with limestone, even though you hear limestone is porous, its porosity in relation to crude oil is actually not that significant. After the first quarter of an inch to one inch, you come up with white limestone, which means it hasn’t penetrated very deeply.”
Ferreira said that about 6,000 barrels of crude oil have been recovered by cleanup teams so far.
“Yesterday, I met with officials from Equinor, from the United Nations and from the European Union and, of course, senior government officials,” he said.
“We met in the boardroom at the Ministry of [the] Environment to get an update on the spill response so far. By way of background, when Hurricane Dorian struck, there was approximately 1.9 million barrels of crude oil…on the site. Now, 1.8 million barrels equates to about 75 million U.S. gallons.
“So, that’s what was on site. So far, what has been recovered has been about 6,000 barrels, which equates to about 252,000 U.S. gallons.
“During the course of this event, Equinor has quadrupled their staff. They went from having a staff of about 50. Now they have 200 persons plus on the ground involved in recovery and remediation. Those persons are housed in two offshore vessels that are on site. Equipment that has been mobilized in addition to booms and skimmers, we have 13 vacuum trucks, two helicopters and, of course, two boats. So that has been ongoing.”
Ferreira said an independent third party is monitoring the air near the site for benzene.
He said the contaminated soil and rock will be treated and disposed of on the island, and the sludge that has been collected will be shipped out of the country.
“There is about 750 cubic yards of contaminated soil and rock aggregate,” he said.
“…That mixture will be treated by way of dilution and injection of microbes and aeration and then disposed of at the Grand Bahama landfill.”
He added, “Of the 6,000 barrels collected, some of it can be reused, but, of course, it’s going to have to be processed because it may be mixed with water and other debris. There is about 12,000 cubic meters of sludge.
“So, that itself will be shipped out of the country for final disposal in the United States under the Basel Convention.”