Massive oil spill cleanup in process organized by STINAPA, STCB, the island government, Selibon, and volunteers.
It is with a very heavy heart that today we report that the result of an oil spill last month in Trinidad is now affecting Bonaire’s east coast.
Trinidad oil spill reaches Bonaire’s east coast.
On April 23rd, 2017, a fuel oil storage tank ruptured at Petrotrin’s Pointe-a-Pierre (Trinidad) refinery spilling 20,000 gallons. Aerial surveys and monitoring indicated that some of the oil leaked from the Pointe-a-Pierre operations and made its way out to sea.
It has taken about a month to reach Bonaire’s east coast, but globules of tar began washing up on the island’s eastern coast last Thursday. The island government’s Department of Public Health, STINAPA, along with its Junior Rangers, STCB, the island’s waste management company Selibon, and a slew of volunteers have spent the last four days doing their best to mitigate the damage.
Bonaire is racing against time and making a massive effort to mitigate the damage to its natural resources.
Bonaire’s government began immediate aerial surveying, but the salt in the sea has turned most of the oil into tar, so it is not easily detected by air as the tar could be floating just under the surface of the sea.
It should be noted that at this time, the tar is only washing up on Bonaire’s east coast so it doesn’t impact the safety of water sports enthusiasts diving or kiting on Bonaire’s western leeward short.
Seabirds along Bonaire’s eastern coast are at high risk for death or sickness.
Because the areas of Lac, Lagun, and Sorobon are high-risk areas due to their large bird diversity, cleanup actions are being focused upon these areas first. Unfortunately, bird populations in these areas, and especially those of seabirds, can be quickly affected, many times causing the bird’s death.
Do not attempt cleanup without the proper equipment.
It should be noted that residents or visitors should NOT try to assist with the cleanup operations without the proper equipment. The oil/tar can be toxic and shouldn’t come in contact with a person’s skin. Should it be touched, the tar should be cleaned with an oil-based substance, such as Baby Oil or cooking oil. Alcohol will not remove it.
You can help. Volunteers are needed to assist with proper cleanup and tar removal efforts.
Those who wish to volunteer to help will be provided the proper equipment and instructions as to how to safely remove the tar. Removal of the tar is easier in the mornings, as the lower temperatures make the tar and oil less fluid. Those who wish to help can sign up by sending an email to either email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line, “Oil Cleanup Volunteer.” Please provide your name, contact phone numbers, days you are available to help, your address, and if you require transportation or not.
Or contact either STINAPA (717-8444) or STCB to participate in a joint cleanup effort tomorrow morning, May 30th, 2017. If you cannot assist tomorrow, your assistance during the rest of the week is still appreciated.
Already affected seabirds are arriving at The Mangrove Info Center, as Elly Albers, owner/manager of the center, has had good experience with the rehabilitation of sick or injured seabirds. Already two boobies have “checked in” in with Elly for a health check. After a massive cleaning, the birds are resting, and hopes are high they can be re-introduced to the sea and shorelines after the situation has resolved.
(Source: OLB, STINAPA, images and videos by STINAPA and Elly Albers, used with permission)
Susan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing for The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog.