7News gets up-close look at ‘catastrophic’ oil spill in Bahamas after Dorian

(WSVN) - By now, we have all seen the heartbreaking images of the humanitarian crisis in the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian, but there is also an environmental catastrophe unfolding there. All new on the Nightteam, Brian Entin takes to the site of a major oil spill in tonight’s 7 Investigates.

Flying over the Equinor Oil terminal on Grand Bahama Island, you can tell right away the spill caused by Hurricane Dorian is serious.

All that black you see is oil that leaked out of tanks during the storm.

The dark plume stretches for miles into a nearby wooded area.

We are with David Collier, who lives in South Florida and has worked in the oil industry for decades.

He says the only way to know the severity of the spill is to see it up close, so we land in Freeport and drive 30 miles east past storm debris and even wildfires to get to the site of the spill.

We have to wear protective clothing and eye wear to get closer.

David Collier, surveying oil spill: “We actually we don’t know that well what we are dealing with.”

We go into the wooded area, and there is oil everywhere.

Brian Entin: “When I touch these branches, what is that?”

David Collier: “That is oil.”

We drive deeper into the forest with Bahamian environmentalist Joseph Darville, and it only gets worse.

Joseph Darville: “Lets pull down with your gloves. Pull down — and oil.”

The plants and insects are covered.

Joseph Darville: “Even if the pine trees die, these do not die, but now that they are saturated with oil, there are very few of them that will come back. They are already killed by the invasion of the oil.”

Experts say when Hurricane Dorian moved through this area, the Category 5 winds took the lids off of these enormous oil containers, and then, the storm surge moved the oil miles into this park.

Workers hired by the Norwegian-based oil company are cleaning up parts of the forest using rakes and backhoes to remove the oil-saturated trees.

Brian Entin: “Have you been able to find out anything yet about what is going on?”

Joseph Darville: “No. No. They are very tight-lipped about it.”

Joseph and I walked to the oil facility hoping to find out about the clean-up plan.

Brian Entin: “My name is Brian Entin. We are from 7News in Miami. Is there anyone in charge here we can talk to about the oil spill?”

We were told to wait and then to put our camera down.

Worker: “I would prefer you rest it on the table.”

No one agreed to speak with us, but a spokeswoman for Equinor later emailed me that they have 250 responders from nine countries cleaning up the area.

She said they are “not able to provide accurate data on the amount spilled,” but are working to find the “best ways to treat the nature and wildlife.”

One concern is whether the oil got into the ocean and the Gulf Stream current.

David Collier: “This has the potential to affect the eastern border of the United States, and I’m not blowing this up. That is just a fact.”

Locals gave 7News pictures that they say shows oil skims off the coast of the facility days after Dorian, but the oil company says it is likely seaweed or sea grass, and that no oil has been found in the ocean.

Joseph Darville: “The impact on our very delicate environment is catastrophic. There is no other way to explain it.”

David Collier: “It makes my soul as black as the oil. It literally does.”

Experts say oil has already seeped beneath the ground and into the limestone.

The long term effects of the spill are still unknown.

A different company is planning to build another oil facility on Grand Bahama Island, but after what happened with Dorian, many Bahamians are now fighting that proposal.

CONTACT 7INVESTIGATES:
305-627-CLUE
954-921-CLUE
clue@wsvn.com

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