TEMA: Oil-spill clean-up going well after 50 days

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Director of TEMA Allan Stewart. – File photo

Director of the Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) Allan Stewart, on March 27, boasted of making significant strides on day 50 of the clean-up an oil spill off the south coast of the island.

The spill came about as a result of an overturned barge – the Gulfstream – which began leaking an oil-like substance, since identified as bunker fuel, some 200 metres off the coast of the Cove Eco Industrial Park on February 7.

Speaking at the post Executive Council on March 27 at the Shaw Park Complex, Stewart said the clean-up objectives were well met.

“We have seen to date, that there have been some changes – the schools that were impacted have been reopened, roadways that were blocked are now reopened. We have seen a scaling-back on the activities in the Scarborough area whereby the 15 metres of impacted shorelines across the Atlantic shoreline has been cleared significantly.”

There are some emerging challenges which, he said, are still being dealt with, as he pointed to the waste-management issue.

“How do we manage the waste that has been extracted as that of hydro-carbon. In addition to that, we have seen the complexity of the mixture of sargassum which we are going through one of those rough seasons with sargassum seaweed. It requires a particular type of posture whereby we separate the hydrocarbon that has been affected from that of the regular sargassum. So, in large, the sargassum response plan is in effect.”

He said there had been some technical discussions the way to address the issue going forward.

He added that the clean-up workforce had significantly been reduced.

“We had close to 140 persons operating in the field on a daily basis, that has been reduced to now 60 persons. We also will see a transition in the coming days and weeks whereby CEPEP workers will be engaged to assist with (removing) those deposits that would show up on the shorelines.”

Additionally, he said that the salvaging of the Gulfstream had begun.

“Utilising the UAV technology, we were able to see the activities that the T&T Salvage is undertaking, not just in collecting the hydrocarbon at sea but also the cargo at sea – they are treating with that. The objective is to bring it to shore before it goes to its final disposition. So that activity would begin very soon.”

He said: “Right now they are doing their necessary tapping into the vessel and doing the necessaries in preparation for what they may perceive to be addition hydrocarbon that is lodged within the vessel itself.”