Environment Minister: Bermuda & Oil Spill

June 4, 2010

Below follows the full statement from today’s House of Assembly by the Minister of the Environment and Sport Glenn Blakeney regarding the Gulf Oil Spill and its possible impact on Bermuda. According to the American organization ‘The National Center for Atmospheric Research’ [NCAR], due to ocean currents oil from the massive disaster in the Gulf of Mexico may pass in the general area of Bermuda this summer. Watch the computer animation of it passing Bermuda here.

Full statement:

Mr. Speaker, in recent weeks we have all been glued to our television sets regarding the catastrophic Gulf Oil Spill. This environmental calamity has been the topic of news broadcasts and world attention since it occurred almost two months ago.

This morning, I would like to briefly advise my honourable colleagues what we are doing in the Ministry of Environment and Sport to ensure we are informed and therefore prepared to address any possible impacts.

Mr. Speaker, earlier this week Dr Fred Ming the Director of Environmental Protection left the Island to attend an emergency workshop in Louisiana entitled “The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Scientific Symposium”.

The Consortium for Ocean Leadership is hosting the symposium to identify existing gaps in scientific knowledge; to seek opportunities to fill those gaps; and to determine priorities for short and long term research needs to understand the impact of the spill on the Gulf ecosystems and human health.

Scientists will also discuss mechanisms to measure the spill and to determine the fate of the oil which are needed to fully understand the impacts.

Mr. Speaker, the important aspect for us is the nature of the oil that may arrive to Bermuda (i.e. tar balls, sub-surface liquid oil spheres, entrained in sargassum seaweed, etc).

This will need to be understood in order to put suitable contingencies in place. This deepwater oil plume with dispersants is unprecedented and its type of impact is currently difficult to evaluate.

Mr. Speaker, the threat to Bermuda has to be considered from two very different perspectives. On the one hand there is the threat related to the defacing of beaches by tar balls.

The other concern, probably the more serious for us in Bermuda, has to do with the toxicity of oil and of the chemical dispersal agents being used in large quantity.

At the moment the evidence for a toxicity impact is circumstantial. For example there has been a significant rise in the number of stranded and dead turtles noted in the Gulf of Mexico. But, there was no obvious presence of oil, neither on the body surface or internally.

Mr. Speaker, there is presently not too much concern about a submerged plume of emulsified oil reaching the Atlantic because the levels or concentration of this material in the water column seems to quickly fall to a few parts per billion or per trillion parts of sea water that is barely measurable within 50 miles of the source of the oil.

There is also little to no risk of fresh oil reaching Bermuda.

Mr. Speaker, as more detailed information becomes available I will ensure that my honourable colleagues and the people of Bermuda are made aware of it.

The importance of this statement today is to let you know that the Government is actively participating in the international discussion and working locally to ensure that we are prepared for any eventuality.

Thank you.

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Category: All, Environment, News

Comments (4)

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  1. terry says:

    Mr. Blakeney is not qualified to summise this issue but his workers have done a great job in writing it up. As I have said elsewhere, Government is on top of this and for that I am gratefull.

    Something is working for a change…….

  2. elBee says:

    If a huge amount of oil hits Bermuda we are doomed — too much coastline and too few resources. The beaches, reefs and fish will be done for. The Gulf oil spill won’t do that, but if an oil tanker hits a reef it will be really bad.

  3. tarbaby says:

    Excuse my ignorance but I had no idea there were implications for Bermuda – just thought we were far enough away. But why does it take something that big to have us asking questions about our envronment? I’ve seen littering and pollution get worse for years on the island. What’s the difference between a ‘tar ball’ washing up on Elbow vs a packet of crisps or an emptied Baygon?