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EMA completes report on December 17 oil spill

...Cabinet gives Energy Minister two weeks to respond
Published: 
Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) has finally completed its report into the December 17 oil spill in the southern peninsula. The Sunday Guardian has learned that the report was submitted to Minister of Water Resources and the Environment Ganga Singh. Singh, the Sunday Guardian understands, has already placed it before Cabinet. Cabinet has given Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine two weeks to respond to the report. That two-week period ended on Friday.

When contacted for comment on Thursday, Singh said he could not divulge details of the findings until Ramnarine responded. He confirmed, however, that Ramnarine had two weeks to give a response, the deadline for which was Friday. Head of the EMA Dr Allan Bachan confirmed that the report was handed over to Singh. He too could not reveal details as the matter is currently before Cabinet. 

The Sunday Guardian understands that the EMA is currently exploring its options with regard to companies that violate the existing environmental laws. The EMA has also tabled several legislative changes which are expected to receive governmental approval at the end of the month. This report comes even as residents in Guaracara are battling another spill from the same company, state-owned Petrotrin.

Spill could have been contained
The Sunday Guardian obtained another detailed report, this time into the most recent oil leak into the Guaracara River. The report suggests that the leak could have been contained before polluting the river. Preliminary water testing at that river has also unearthed evidence that industrial dumping has been taking place for over 60 years, according to the EMA.

The leak, which emanated from the MP6 tank in Petrotrin’s Pointe-a-Pierre facility, passed through two checkpoints without any red flags being raised, and continued its slow, steady progress to the river. The report also points to maintenance red flags raised by an inspection company back in 2010 which highlighted the leak at the MP6 storage tank. An internal Petrotrin document, entitled Instructions To Inspectors, advises that three huge tanks be checked according to the substance they contained.

The MP6 tank, built in 1965, was for storing non-corrosive lube oil and needed a visual test every year, an ultrasonic test every eight years and a full internal check every 15 years. However, the tank did not store lube oil as expected but contained more corrosive slop oil. Slop oil required a very different inspection timeline, the report stated. Tanks containing slop oil, as the MP6 did, need more frequent checks: A visual check every year, an ultrasonic test every two years, and a full internal check over two years.

The last full examination of MP6 occurred back in 1991 with a recommendation that the next external examination take place in 1992, an ultrasonic in 1996, and a full check by 2016. The Sunday Guardian also obtained photographs of the MP6 tank storage area on July 30, two days after oil was reportedly spotted in the Guaracara River.

The Sunday Guardian further obtained a copy of the Refining & Marketing and Trading Daily Operations Report for the day ending July 30, 2014, which notes that the workers tried to pump some of the slop from the heavily leaking MP6 into the nearby MP5. “Tanks base ruptured. Some oil pumped to MP5. Remainder being recovered from environment.” President general of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union Ancel Roget is adamant that this new leak could have been prevented.

In an interview with the Sunday Guardian on Wednesday, Roget said it was “galling” that Petrotrin did not learn anything from the December 17 oil spill. Petrotrin’s vice president of refining and marketing Mado Bachan has been suspended pending the investigation, along with nine Petrotrin employees. The Sunday Guardian tried to reach Petrotrin’s manager of communications, Gillian Friday, on her cellphone on Friday, but got no response.