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EDITORIAL: We must save our water from that oil now!


BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: We must save our water from that oil now!

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We hadn’t well come to grips with the Nicholls Building tragedy on the rooftop, before we had the possible frightening contamination of the environment splashed in our faces.
The burgeoning environmental risk at the former refinery site of the Mobil Oil Company at Gravesend – eight years in the making – cannot continue unattended, at best smothered in nonchalance and inertia. The Minister Responsible For Energy simply can’t be waiting on a “final report” on the planned clean-up there after all this time.
Even now Senator Darcy Boyce cannot – or would not – give a time-frame on when the obviously needed cleaning will begin.
As the report goes, the Canadian company Fiton Technologies Corporation, hired for the clean-up, is willing to front-end 90 per cent of the financing of the operation over three years and be paid after completion. Unexplainedly, a contract approved in 2010 by the Government for the work remains unsigned.
To some relief, Senator Boyce has suggested that when he gets the final report he is awaiting, “the contract will be signed”. We will hold the minister to that.
But we cannot help but allude to the nationally collective nigh indifference, casualness and tardiness towards some elements of our heritage and our environment. While it may be argued that there is no life lost, or damage done to the land by tampering with or occluding some ancient landmark, the said cannot be presented for risky decisions on our environment.
So we may ache and palpitate over the ruthless tinkering with Nicholls Building’s classic 350-year-old curvilinear Dutch gable, and hyperventilate over the ignorance of or disinterest in architecture, heritage symbolism and such things of historic significance. We will get over it.
After all, as some people argue, such matters are for the high-minded.
No such thinking can we encourage with our environment!
We are told that both the Government and the Canadian company recognize the old Mobil site to be “extremely dangerous and volatile, having a large number of exposed pits, leaking oil tanks and various levels of highly flammable liquids”. And so while we appreciate the potential hazard at any attempt at clean-up at Gravesend, further delay can only spell increased risks.
Attorney Barry Gale, QC, speaking on behalf of the Canadian company Fiton, has made clear what the dangers are.
“There is a material risk of a catastrophic event which could have significant and devastating consequences on both the environment and tourism.”
Of immediate concern though is the reality that the current oil contamination at the old refinery site could seep into the ground water supply there. It cannot be acceptable that the Canadian company could be kept waiting for almost four years now to carry out the work that will obviate this.
Level, but speedy heads must decide!

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