BY Hon. Kenred Dorsett M. P.
Minister of Environment and Housing
July 6, 2015
Today, the Government of the Bahamas and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) held a joint press conference on the release of the Expert Consultancy Report on the Rubis Robinson Road Fuel Spill, prepared for the Government of the Bahamas by PAHO experts. The report analyzes preliminary health data, addresses both the current situation, and makes recommendations for how to address similar situations in the future.
Based on the screening and testing which has been completed and analyzed to date, and on original data, the PAHO experts have not found any evidence of direct current or long-term health risks resulting from the Rubis Robinson Road fuel spill. The PAHO experts believe any impacts of the spill to have been short-term with no long-term consequences. Health issues of marathon residents were not found to be significantly different when compared to the general population in other areas of New Providence or the family island.
According to the report written by Dr. Rik Van de Weerdt, Toxicologist, Consultant, PAHO, while “in earlier reports one private well was contaminated … a health risk assessment based on WHO standards and actual exposure duration did not reveal long-term health risk.”
Furthermore, the report provided recommendations regarding the health screening tools for similar events in the future. These are outlined in a roadmap as part of the preliminary report, and will form a key element in the work of the proposed Department of Environmental Planning and Protection.
As the Honorable Minister Perry Gomez remarked during the event “The Rubis Robinson Road spill revealed that in the past, the protection of our environment has not been taken as importantly as Bahamians would want it to be, as this government wants it to be. That is why, when we realized the extent of the Rubis fuel spill, we immediately commenced environmental remediation activities to ensure our citizens were not exposed to dangerous levels of harmful chemicals.”
Minister of Education and MP for Marathon, Jerome Fitzgerald added that “In the interest of public health and to further ensure the health and safety of Marathon residents, we will continue testing and monitoring for the next several years. We will work closely with the residents of Marathon through this time, and ensure that everybody is informed regularly about any future findings.” These updates will take place every 30 days for at least the next three months.
Environment Minister Kenred Dorsett stressed that the Government acted immediately to ensure action was taken to remediate any environmental impact the spill caused, including condemning wells, and using modern technology to extract harmful chemicals from soil. He also pointed out that, “One of our first measures will be to implement new, stricter regulations on the petroleum industry. These regulations will deal with every aspect of the petroleum industry, from the maintenance of equipment, the storage of materials, and – in case of an accident – the mitigation of pollutants and contaminants.”
He added that, “This legislation is just one of the ways our government is working to protect all citizens of The Bahamas and is part of our government’s plan to continue building a safer and stronger Bahamas.”
The Government will continue to keep residents of Marathon appraised of reports and what steps will be taken in the future to prevent similar situations. Together with PAHO, the Government is working to ensure the safety and health of Marathon residents as well as all Bahamians.