Personnel from Belize Natural Energy worked around the clock to avert any damage to the environment in Spanish Lookout where an oil spill occurred. The spill was caused by a leak in a pipe at one of the wells. That leak led to a gush of an undisclosed amount of water and crude oil into a creek spreading to the main road in the community. The topsoil affected by the spill was quickly removed under supervision of the Department of Environment to contain potential damage. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.
Allan Reimer, Chairman, Spanish Lookout Petroleum Board
“It was a pipe that had ruptured, an underground pipe that for some reason, we don’t know why they rupture, but it ruptured and there was a large stream of oil and water along the roads, into a culvert and into a creek.”
Duane Moody, Reporting
On Sunday, there was a crude oil spill within the underground pipeline network of Belize Natural Energy in the Spanish Lookout Community in western Belize. It is the third oil spill in sixteen months caused by breakage in the piping. Gallons upon gallons of waters and raw crude oil seeped into a nearby drain and down to a ditch hundreds of feet away and dumping into a creek along the stretch of road leading to the police station. The quantum of oil mixture lost is unknown at this time, but the Department of Environment has since been called in to supervise.
Anthony Mai, Environmental Officer, DoE
“B.N.E. does a walkthrough of the pipeline and they found the oil coming up at a particular location and then that area is dug and when the soil is removed, the pipeline is exposed. And where the pipeline was joined together, sealed together, there was a small crack in the seal and some oil was coming from that location. The oil went on the surface, flood off into a small drain and flowed down into a little small narrow creek. It was the pipe that goes from Mike Nine to Mike Five and it is difficult to explain because most people would not know where those pipes are or wells are. But there is a six-inch pipe running from Mike Five to Mike Nine. There is a manifold at Mike Five where all the pipes connect to then it goes to central so it was that pipeline.”
Apart from the dangers to animals and humans who come in contact with the layer of crude oil, the spill is damaging to the environment; it can cause loss to vegetation and erosion, and has a pungent smell. Allan Reimer sits on the Spanish Lookout Petroleum Board and serves as the bridge between B.N.E. and the Mennonite community. He says that the frequency of incidents is concerning.
“These wells are producing up to seventy percent water and thirty percent oil; so it is a thousand gallons combined was my estimation.”
“What I the concern in terms of these oil spills?”
“When you wake up on a Sunday morning and you see your nice lawn that you have along the roadside and you see a black river flowing through there. Imagine the feelings you’re having and the smell of it; it is just something that is abhorrent to find it there and nobody likes it. But we have to deal with it and after that comes the clean up phase and cleanup is never a nice job.”
That cleanup is done by B.N.E. whose workmen have been on the ground since Sunday. The Department of Environment has been supervising the remedial works currently ongoing. Environmental Officer Anthony Mai explains the process, which begins with the removal of the topsoil where the spill occurred to minimize the environmental impact.
“B.N.E. personnel immediately contained it and they stopped it from flowing and they cleaned up the site by removing the soil from the area. The soil was taken to B.N.E. central at the decontamination site and it is being processed. We went on the site to observe the situation. Before that we normally inform them that they need to contain the situation and then begin cleanup. And so we went on site and B.N.E. was doing cleanup activities and we stay on site as supervisors and we guide them through the process. Basically up to now they have cleaned the site and they are about to re-pressurize the pipeline to get the well back on stream. The good thing is that the B.N.E. employees were able to contain it so they stopped it from flowing quickly. Again the creek was not like flowing waters so it didn’t move along quite far. I think on the surface beside the road was about seven hundred feet and then it went down into a small little creek and it was stop about a hundred feet from that.”
According to Mai, the Department of Environment routinely receives reports from the oil company on oil spills, but the leakages are usually contained.
“All the tanks at B.N.E. are required to have a containment bond; all the oil head are required to have a cellar which is a containment bond as well. So most of the spills occur within the bond and it doesn’t overflow into the environment so in that case it is easy to cleanup. Only in instances where the spill occur in such a way that it goes outside the bond that is when we need to go on site, we need to supervise, we need to ensure that they clean up properly.”
“The bad side of it is that we have to do things that we don’t like to do, but yet we have no alternative. It wasn’t planned by anybody; these leaks are not planned and so we bear with the company while they clean up and kinda suppress our emotions a little.”