August 20, 20131093Views

Clean-up operations
following last Thursday’s oil spill in Road Town have been temporarily halted
due to current weather conditions.

The Territory is currently
experiencing scattered showers, the effects of an upper level trough over the
Northeast Caribbean which is creating unstable atmospheric conditions. There is
also the chance of isolated thunderstorms. This has resulted in difficulty with
the clean-up operations and access to the dump site.

Senior Government officials
affiliated with the project are expected to meet later today to discuss the
resumption of work.

Since the oil spill
occurred last Thursday, work crews were immediately deployed, first to contain
the spill and then to undertake clean-up operations.  The crews worked through the weekend and late
into the night on Monday and were able to make significant headway, removing
the oil, water and highly contaminated sludge.

What was initially thought
to be a quick clean-up has evolved into an in-depth operation given the level
of contaminated effluent discovered in the drain, the rising water level due to
rainfall and the challenges associated with using heavy-duty equipment in a
confined space while ensuring strict adherence to safety procedures.

The actual cost of the
clean-up is still to be determined but additional heavy-duty equipment had to be
sourced to mount an effective response.

Mr. Cecil Jeffrey, a
trained Level II Hazardous Substances Responder at the Department of Disaster
Management (DDM) explained that initially one excavator, two sewage pump trucks
and two 20-yard trucks were being used.

“We have since brought on
an additional excavator, three more sewage pump trucks and five more 20-yard
trucks. The sewage trucks have been pumping the oil and water from the drain
while the remaining sludge is being mixed with soil to create a more solid
consistency which is then easier to lift and transport and reduces the risk of
leakage onto the streets and human contact. The contaminated waste is being disposed
of at a secure, designated location.”

In addition to removing the
waste material, the drain is being thoroughly cleaned with the use of
power-washers to ensure that all traces of contaminants are removed and nothing
leaks into the sea when the drain is re-opened.

Mr. Jeffrey said, “The waste
oil that spilled into the drain is highly contaminant and all steps must be
taken to ensure that the environmental impact is kept to a minimum. Immediate
steps were taken to contain the spill and in undertaking the clean-up, we have
to ensure that all toxic material is removed and there is minimum human contact
with these substances. The Government has mounted a multi-agency response to
the oil spill and each department has to ensure that departmental objectives
are met as it relates to the clean-up. At the end of the week, we expect to return
to a state of normalcy and then
proceed with the
preparation of a report for Cabinet.”

Results from the samples collected
and sent to be tested at the United States Coast Guard Laboratory in
Connecticut are expected in two weeks. Once in receipt of the results,
investigators will determine how to proceed and make the necessary
recommendations to Cabinet.

There is legislation on the
BVI statute books through which Government can seek to recover the cost of the
clean-up from the company which is deemed responsible for the oil spill and
every effort will be made to do so.

The Department of Disaster
Management, in accordance with the 2009 National Oil Spill Plan, continues to co-ordinate
the multi-agency response which also involves the BVI Fire and Rescue Services,
Water and Sewerage Department, Conservation and Fisheries Department and the
Ministry of Communication and Works as well as private contractors hired to
assist in the execution of the project.