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7-day deadline for RUBiS chemical spill report

Published:Friday | January 10, 2020 | 12:29 AMNeville Graham/Business Reporter

Petroleum marketing company RUBiS has seven days to come up with a full report on a fuel and chemical spill at its Rockfort facility.

This comes after a January 7 incident where the roof of a water tank collapsed at the plant. The water tank is one of three close to the western boundary of the sprawling facility. The collapse resulted in damage to fuel and chemical lines, according to a release from the company and confirmed by senior manager, environmental management, at the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), Richard Nelson.

“Despite their contingency efforts aimed at containment because of the volume of water mixing with the spill, it overwhelmed their containment system and went into a spring that passes the facility and ends up in the sea,” Nelson told The Gleaner.

An undetermined amount of 87-octane fuel and a solvent-additive called toluene mixed in water formed the total spill, he said.

Nelson said that the company used containment booms at the mouth of the spring to minimise the spill along with guzzler trucks to effect a first-instance clean-up, adding that RUBiS would have to recover as many of the contaminants as possible. He said that the required rehabilitative process would have to rely on the assessment of damage to the marine environment; the waterway for the spring; and the surrounding soil, which would call for soil tests.

Toluene is a highly volatile chemical used in the paint industry and other areas of manufacturing. It is also used as an additive for automobile fuels. It is not listed as cancer-causing, but in certain concentrations, vapours in small amounts may cause a mild headache, dizziness, drowsiness, or nausea. With more serious exposure, toluene may cause sleepiness, stumbling, irregular heartbeat, fainting, or even death. Toluene vapour is mildly irritating to the skin, eyes, and lungs, according to Internet sources.

Nelson said that RUBiS has a narrow window to submit a report with a remedial plan.

“Based on their permit, they have seven days to submit a detailed report containing causes and the impact, including soil tests, and so on. We are aware that some of these tests have to be sent abroad, but we expect that to be with us all told within two weeks,” Nelson said.

The Gleaner reached out to RUBiS for further comment about damage assessment and likely costs. Promises of a response were not fulfilled up to news time.

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com