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Three months to clean oil spills, says US expert

Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Workers clean up the oil spill near a home at Coffee Beach, La Brea, yesterday. PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH

US oil spill expert Brian Gove says the oil spill ravaging the southwestern coastline is “challenging” and clean-up operations may take up to three months. Yesterday Gove, technical adviser on health and safety at Oil Spill Response Ltd, Florida, USA, together with Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine, toured clean-up operations at Point Saube, La Brea, where the major mopping up efforts have been concentrated. The US expert said the location of the oil spill had made cleaning up a bit difficult for his team, contractors and Petrotrin.



“This one is a little bit challenging in that we do not have access. We only have the one access road and it’s quite a bit of oil for up to a two-mile stretch. Usually we are lucky to have a little more access,” he said. Gove said they have a slight advantage at Point Saube since the current was bringing the oil to that area which was making it easier for the workers to collect it. “We are taking advantage of the natural collection point,” he said.


Last week Petrotrin estimated clean-up operations would take at least a week but yesterday Gove revised the timeframe. He said it would take two weeks for heavy cleaning of the oil and three months for the light cleaning. Ramnarine, addressing reporters after the tour, agreed with Gove’s timeframe. He said the limited access roads to the beach “affect the ability to get equipment, to mobilise equipment to the site.” 


He assured that heavy equipment, such as backhoes and excavators, were being brought to the areas inaccessible by road by being driven up the coastline along the beach. Gove said at present the oil booms (plastic barriers) placed at Point Saube and at Coffee Beach “have been working effectively, but booms do need to be maintained so it does change with each tide. “We have a higher tide coming in this evening (yesterday) and we will have to monitor that but we have additional booms on standby.”


Yesterday Ramnarine said an Institute of Marine Affairs preliminary report had said the oil found at La Brea is Bunker C, a product of the refining process. He said Bunker C fuel had similar characteristics to crude oil and admitted that “both crude oil and Bunker C can be problematic.” Ramnarine said a report would be done on the oil spill, which he said was a lesson for Petrotrin, and the recommendations from that experience would assist in improving the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan.


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