Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Bahamas: The probability of Andros Island's shorelines being impacted by the Deepwater Horizon/ BP oil spill is less than one per cent

Projections say Andros unlikely to suffer oil spill effects
Tribune Staff Reporter

THE probability of Andros' shorelines being impacted by the gulf oil spill is less than one per cent, according to the latest projections of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States.

According to a technical report released Friday by NOAA, the Cay Sal Bank and the Bimini Cays are the most vulnerable territories in the Bahamas for shoreline impact from the Deepwater Horizon/ BP oil spill. They are grouped in the 41 to 60 per cent range. The northwest coast of Grand Bahama has a one to 20 per cent chance of experiencing shoreline impact.

"I received an email indicating that NOAA advised the Bahamas and Cuba that based on their modeling in the next 120 days the oil would be substantially in loop current and the places likely to be affected are Bahamas and Cuba," said Earl Deveaux, Minister of Environment.

"Our response is going to be heightened surveillance. We will continue to update our monitoring, so we know with a high degree of certainty when any sightings occur if they occur in Cay Sal," he said.

The NOAA models assume a 90-day oil flow rate of 33,000 barrels per day. It accounts for the "daily estimated amount being skimmed, burned, and/or collected by the Top Hat mechanism".

The model also accounts for the "natural process of oil 'weathering' or breaking down, and considers oil a threat to the shoreline if there is enough to cause a dull sheen within 20 miles of the coast", states the NOAA.

The Bahamas lies just south of a high risk area with South Florida rated i61 to 80 per cent. Due to the influence of the Loop Current, the Florida Keys, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale are areas of high risk for shoreline impact.

The NOAA issued an advisory on what to Expect in South Florida that stated: "If oil were to reach South Florida, the freshest oil will have spent at least 10 days to 14 days on the water surface. It could arrive in Florida in the form of pancakes of brown oil, streamers of pudding-like emulsified oil, or very thin sheen. As oil on the water surface ages, winds and waves tear it into smaller and smaller pieces, and evaporation and dissolution of its lighter constituents makes it denser and more tar-like.

"Ultimately, floating oil becomes small tar-like balls. If the oil reaches South Florida, responders in South Florida may see a mixture of forms of oil, however, they are most likely to see tar balls," the advisory stated.

There has been no recommendation to station officials in the Cay Sal area to provide surveillance of the Bahamian waters at risk. Cay Sal is a very remote area and has no amenities.

Mr Deveaux said the Royal Bahamas Defence Force in their routine patrol of the Western Bahamas "would be in a position to tell us if they observe any tar balls". He said fishermen who regularly work in the area of the Cay Sal Bank were also providing surveillance for the area.

Based on the "long standing relationship" between the Bahamian government and the University of Miami, Mr Deveaux said the Oil Spill Contingency Team would also be alerted by its partners if oil was spotted in the Florida Cays.

"We get a lot of reports from people flying over; people boating.

"It is commendable the sense of alertness the Bahamian public have," said Mr Deveaux.

July 05, 2010