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US expert to monitor Rubis cleanup effort

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A US expert has arrived on the island to speed clean-up efforts stemming from a gas leak at the Rubis facility in St George's in March, the Government has confirmed.

John Wilson flew in at the request of the Ministry of Environment.

“It is expected Dr Wilson will advise whether additional methods could be utilised to expedite the recovery of the gasoline from the ground while minimising the risk of any direct secondary impacts to neighbours,” the Government said in a release issued yesterday afternoon.

Dr Wilson, the Government said, has “considerable experience” in the field, and was previously employed with the US Environmental Protection Agency until 2014.

His contract with the Bermuda Government will include consulting on data submitted until March 2018.

The latest data, the Government said, indicated that the liquid gas is contained on the site within 100 feet of the spill location.

“Gasoline indicators have not been detected in any of the nearest private wells to the south of the site, which are monitored daily.”

To date, vacuum extraction has removed approximately four per cent of the leaked gas, the Government said.

“A more sophisticated vacuum extraction system is currently en route to Bermuda and will arrive within one week,” the Government said. “This will be deployed at six new wells that have been drilled over the spill area.”

A previous statement released by the Government pegged the estimated size of the spill at 19,300 gallons (73,058 litres).

A well-placed source previously said the spill's size was more than 22,000 gallons (83,279 litres). The source, who spoke with The Royal Gazette on the condition of anonymity, also said several hours passed from the time when the leak was first detected by the company until the Government was notified.

In April, a spokesperson for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said notification of the leak “was late by approximately 24 hours according to the conditions of the Operating Licence under the Clean Air Act 1991”.

“The department will address this reporting non-compliance in due course.”

Rubis previously said the leak was caused by the failure of a gasket connecting a valve to a fuel pipeline at the facility on Monday, March 27.

Yesterday, Jonathan Starling, executive director with Greenrock, said that while he was pleased with the news of Dr Wilson's arrival, additional information was needed.

“What isn't clear to us from this release is the timeline for expecting full remediation of the site however, and that is something we would like to have some clarity about,” he said.

Mr Starling said such instances reinforce why Bermuda needed to phase out fossil fuels in favour of renewable energy sources.

The spill also, he said, showed why liquid natural gas (LNG) is unsuitable for Bermuda.

“An equivalent accident of LNG would have had far more catastrophic consequences.”

Graham Redford, managing director with Rubis, said the company welcomed the arrival of Dr Wilson to review remediation progress.

“Early indications are that all of our efforts and methodology to date are more than satisfactory, and of course we look forward to any additional insights that will help the remediation process,” he said.

The coastline, seawater and neighbouring properties have not been impacted, Mr Redford said.

“There has been no presence of hydrocarbons detected in the soil, air or the sea in these areas adjacent to our depot.”

Mr Redford said Rubis remained committed to environmental protection efforts.

“We have deployed and will continue to deploy all necessary resources to remove hydrocarbons from the soil and groundwater wherever detected as per international environmental standards.”

Rubis cleanup continues (Photograph supplied)
Rubis cleanup continues (Photograph supplied)

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Published May 11, 2017 at 4:09 pm (Updated May 12, 2017 at 10:25 am)

US expert to monitor Rubis cleanup effort

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