IMA: Oil in Tobago spill is ‘diesel-like’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A backhoe helps in the clean-up of an oily substance along the coast in Tobago. – Photo courtesy TEMA

THE spill on the Tobago coast consists of oil which is “diesel-like” according to a scientific assessment by the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA).

This from the Ministry of Planning and Development in a statement on Sunday.

The statement was titled IMA completes first round of preliminary oil finger-printing results from samples taken at the site of Tobago oil spill.

It said Planning Pennelope Beckles wanted to inform the public and media that the IMA completed the first round of analysis of the results of the hydrocarbon samples taken at the site of the ongoing oil spill near the shore of Cove Bay on the Atlantic side of Tobago.

“The preliminary results produced by the newly acquired Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometer (GC-MS) instrument indicate that the substance exhibits characteristics consistent with a refined oil consisting of both light and heavy hydrocarbon fractions, similar to a diesel-like product.”

The IMA will collect further samples to provide confirmatory results, to the foundation for further response strategies “to link the hydrocarbon substance to refined products, whether produced in the region or further afield.”

IMA director Dr Ava Maxam said the next step would be for Trinidad and Tobago to reach out to regional territories with refineries for cross-matching of refined petroleum products and databases for comparison with the characteristics of the fuel found in the vessel.

The IMA’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing Unit are also supporting recovery efforts by detecting and tracking the progress of the fuel’s slick extent on the ocean’s surface using satellite imagery. Near real-time capture of the spill’s location enables the visualisation and analysis of spatial data, thereby informing decision-making for strategically deploying resources to mitigate the impact on vulnerable coastal ecosystems and assets.

“The IMA’s marine ecologists have assessed the spill’s impact on sensitive ecosystems and will continue to monitor vulnerabilities of coastal and marine resources such as coral reefs, sea grass and mangroves, as well as determine through fish samples collected at various points along the affected shorelines whether or not there are unusual hydrocarbon levels detected in their tissues.”

The IMA, under its water quality monitoring programme, will continue to test for dissolved and dispersed petroleum hydrocarbons (DDPH) to determine the concentration of hydrocarbons in the water column – from the ocean surface to the sea floor – until results indicate a return to pre-incident levels.

“This monitoring will form part of IMA’s plan to recover and restore the affected areas.”

Beckles committed to continue providing her ministry’s expertise through the IMA and the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) in support of all agencies in Tobago to work together to continue managing the oil spill.