More PUC crude oil washes up on Cerf Island


30-April-2013

The oil spill is reported to have originated from the Public Utilities Corporation (PUC) oil storage reservoirs located at its Roche Caïman power plant on the edge of the bay.

Juliana Legaie, technical advisor to the Minister of Environment and Energy said that the areas affected included the St Anne jetty, the bay surrounding Roche Caïman, the Cerf Island channel as well as Cerf Island itself, which is located within the protected Ste Anne Marine National Park.

“During the weekend, it was only part of Cerf Island, but now we have been receiving reports that another part of the island has also been affected, so now we are on our way there to find out how bad it is and what the chances are that we might be able to clean it up by the end of the day.”

Although the ministry does not have a clear estimate of the cost of the clean-up, the efforts to mitigate the disaster are likely to be “very costly”, according to Ms Legaie.
“We know we had to buy some additional tools and then we had to provide lunch and drinks for those who were working,” said Ms Legaie.

“We also have people’s property to consider, we have boats that have been damaged and the jetty, so we don’t have an estimate yet.”
“What we are trying to do is we are trying to facilitate things,” she said. “We are talking to all the owners of the vessels, to get them to provide their quotes, and then we are going to bring them together and hand it to PUC, and then they would decide whether they want to go with an out-of-court settlement, pay them and that’s it, or if they don’t agree then those people will have to put in separate claims and take them to court.”

Ms Legaie reported that the investigation into the spillage was still ongoing, but initial findings were that oil leaking from an oil reservoir had gone into a containment area and overflown into a stormwater drain, which was then carried directly out into the bay.

She said her department was still awaiting answers from PUC as to how much oil had been spilled, the duration of the spillage and why it had not been contained.

Ms Legaie said the oil was being cleaned up by using oil dispersants on the water and shoveled or raked up on the beaches and placed into sacks. Rocks affected by the oil have not yet been cleaned, but the ministry has said the rocks will be sprayed with oil dispersants to rid them of their dark brown oil stains, beneath which countless numbers of small fish can still be seen in the water.

Dispersants act by reducing the surface tension that stops oil and water from mixing. Small droplets of oil are then formed, which helps promote rapid dilution of the oil by water movements.
PUC has confirmed the oil spillage and said the incident occurred during the refueling of a PUC fuel storage tank.

According to a statement released by the PUC late yesterday, the utility company is working with the Ministry of Environment to ensure no further negative impact on the surrounding environment and has apologised to affected boat owners, Cerf Island residents and business owners.

Further details are expected to emerge at the post-mortem hearing which will be conducted at the Ministry of Environment and Energy today.

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