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Jul 6, 2017

DOE Says Tar Was Spilled; National Plan Still in the Works

As you heard in that story, the local press didn’t observe anything that looked like crude oil in Belize’s water ways. But Guatemalans living in the area claimed that the oil had already gone down river since Monday. The Department of Environment didn’t issue any information on the reported oil spill; that is, until this evening when Environmental Technician Kenrick Gordon spoke with us via phone. Gordon clarifies that D.O.E. has been in contact with its Guatemalan counterpart, who confirmed that the substance that spilled and contaminated the waterways was not crude oil, but tar. He also pointed out that from working with the B.D.F., stationed at Cadenas; there has been no sighting of the material or contamination in our waterways.


On the Phone: Kenrick Gordon, Environmental Technician, DOE

“They indicated to us that the incident happened at 12:30 a.m. on the thirtieth of June at route 325 which is twenty-seven miles or forty-four kilometers west south west from Gracias A Dios in Guatemala, in a tributary that connects to the Sarstoon River. Since the news of the spill, the DOE, through the help of the B.D.F. stationed in Cadenas have been monitoring the river, conducting patrols, checking for any signs of spill. But, thus far, they have confirmed there wasn’t any sign of contamination of the environment. And one of the things that we need to consider though is that, according to Mr. Jimenez, what was spilled was actually tar. They indicated that crude is piped to their bulk storage facility and tar is made from the distillation of petroleum; this is left behind after the removal of light fuels, light gasoline, and diesel. But tar is extremely difficult to flow, normally when it reaches as far as in the water, it sinks to the bottom. Tar is like peanut butter, it has a very high viscosity. So, from the pictures that you see online you can see the substance at the bottom of the sea floor. According to Mr. Rodriquez, however, it is not within the Sarstoon River.”


Andrea Polanco

“We continue to work along with the B.D.F. to continue to monitor at least to where our territorial areas are.”


Andrea Polanco

“And nothing was observed there?”


On the Phone: Kenrick Gordon

“No. Not since the last patrol that was conducted. They started, I believe, early Monday morning.”


Andrea Polanco

“What would be the impact of that tar; in terms of in the waterways or affecting fish and things like that?”


On the Phone: Kenrick Gordon

“Well, for one, there isn’t expected to be any impact on fishes. When you have an oil spill, if you have crude, diesel, let us say crude because normally diesel and gasoline evaporate very fast – so if you have crude that remain on top of the water, fishes normally swim away from the dark areas and in this instance it is a viscous substance – tar would sink to the bottom and it would more affect the river bottom or cause contamination just to the river bottom. Marine life in general we don’t expect there would be much effect on those.”


When we spoke with Gordon we asked him for an update on the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan. He told us that the document being used by Belize is the draft plan. It is still under revision and in the coming weeks, consultants along with local partners will be updating the draft.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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