Thu | Sep 21, 2017

NEPA ponders legal action in Kingston Harbour oil spill

Published:Saturday | December 31, 2016 | 12:46 AM
A flock of seagulls takes of from a boat by the Kingston waterfront.

The National Environment and Planning Agency is contemplating legal action against the parties allegedly responsible for the oil spills which occurred in the Kingston Harbour over the period November 24 to 26, this year.
In a release yesterday, the environmental regulatory body said it has commenced legal discourse with the parties allegedly involved in the incident.
According to NEPA, the release of any trade effluent, industrial waste, noxious or polluting matter into any harbour constitutes a criminal offence.  It says the Natural Resources Conservation Authority also has the legal right to, among other things, recover any cost incurred in furtherance of abating the impact of the spill.
Following the incident NEPA started an investigation including an ecological assessment of the impact of the oil spill.
The environmental agency’s initial ecological assessment focused on the impact on the flora and fauna of the Kingston Harbour, including the impact of the oil sheen on mangrove root systems on sections of the mangroves in the Palisadoes – Port Royal area, and on the plankton community that exist within the water column of the Harbour. The Ecological Assessment Report also made a determination on the value of ecological damage associated with these spills
NEPA’s investigations reveal that three oil spills occurred during the period. The spills were confined to the New-Port East area of the Kingston Harbour. The investigations found that two of the spills were as a result of operational accident during bunkering activities. The other spill occurred from a land-based facility.
An oil sheen as a result of the incidents covered an area of approximately 27 km2 of the Harbour extending to the shoreline of the Palisadoes. A post monitoring assessment on December 2, 2016 indicated that no oil sheen was observed in the Harbour. 
The agency’s team, as secondary responders, in conjunction with other key response agencies completed the following activities: Tracked and developed trajectories for the movement of the oil within the Kingston Harbour; identified natural resources at risk; assessed the oil impacts on the marine environment; and conducted post monitoring which is expected to continue for the next 12 months.
The Jamaica Defence Force Coast Guard, as first responders and national on-scene coordinator, deployed personnel and equipment in respect of two of these incidents. Oil containment, recovery equipment and material were also deployed by private parties to abate the spill.