Oilspill may cause permanent damage

An oil leak near the George Town Sanitary Landfill will likely cause permanent environmental damage.

Rusted drums of recycled oil, stored at the landfill to await shipment overseas, started to leak after Hurricane Ivan blew them into a dyke near the Harquail Bypass.

While a Texas-based team employed to clean up the spill is scheduled to finish next week, damage will remain, according to officials.

‘There is going to be an environmental impact (from this),’ one official said Thursday.

‘Wind conditions, tidal conditions and logistics all have an impact. Next week we’re going to have a look at it and see.’

The official was unable to say how many barrels Ivan had moved, how many were leaking or how much oil had been discharged, but said they formed part of a larger number that had been stored at the landfill.

‘Some of the drums were scattered by the storm surge,’ the official said.

‘After the hurricane, we installed a containment boom to ensure the pollution would not spread into North Sound,’ said another.

‘We wanted to ensure the contamination didn’t move, so we isolated (the barrels) so we could deal with them in a more structured and focused way,’ the official said.

After an initial assessment of the site, workers removed a number of leaking drums, but the remaining containers started causing problems.

Last month, a three-member team arrived from Texas A&M’s National Spill Control School to assess the damage, and, with staff from the Department of Environmental Health, began cleaning the area.

‘They have only been on the job since last Thursday, but all the drums have been removed, a considerable portion of the free-standing oil has been recovered and the vegetation has been washed. We have made significant progress so far,’ the official said.

The last phase of the project, the official said, was ongoing site observation, ensuring the pollution remained isolated and nearby mangroves were protected.

The fact remains, however, that the damage cannot be entirely repaired.

‘Our systematic and focused approach ensures that the contamination will be limited,’ the official said.