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Oct 13, 2022

Oil Spill at Westline Bus Company in Benque

Today, News Five’s Duane Moody headed west to Benque Viejo del Carmen where a bus company and the Department of Environment have been tackling an oil spill at the entrance of the town. The incident has brought into sharp focus the environmental impacts associated with these types of occurrences, but also issues of improper storage of hazardous materials. Here’s a report.


Duane Moody, Reporting

About ninety percent of an oil spill at the entrance of Benque Viejo del Carmen has been cleaned up since it was first detected on Tuesday evening.  It is believed that over a hundred gallons of waste oil, colloquially known as ‘burn oil,’ leaked out of a metal tank on Westline Bus Company’s compound in the town and found its way through the drainage and towards the Mopan River.


Sergio Chuc

Sergio Chuc, Owner, Westline Bus Company

“When I did find out, the Ministry of Environment was already there working side by side with my crew ensuring that the oil did not get to the river. So we jumped on it immediately as we found out. The explanation I got from the mechanic is that the valve was already corroded, it was old and he did not realize it until possibly the spill could have started from Saturday or Sunday, but because of the bad weather, nobody was around, and when he did manage to see it, the oil had leaked out already.”


Duane Moody

“Do you know how much was in that tank at the time?”


Sergio Chuc

“He is estimating anywhere between a hundred and a hundred and fifty gallons were stored at that moment. We don’t know the exact amount. We know the tank holds a maximum of a thousand gallons, but it was fairly empty for all purposes, for us. It could have been up to a hundred and fifty gallons. He don’t think it could be more than that.”


Dr. Kenrick Williams, C.E.O., Ministry of Sustainable Development, Climate Change & Disaster Risk Management

“The Department of Environment has been out here since yesterday and this morning working with the company. As you notice, they set up containment booms so that everything is trapped or best as possible we can trap any residual, any flow and from there we use the absorption pads to sort of sap up those oils. Between yesterday and today, we’ve been indicated by the department that they have been able to address ninety percent of it. You can still see residuals and you can never clean it up a hundred percent and that is this issue with these types of infractions.”


The owner of the bus company, Sergio Chuc, says that the waste oil is stored in a thousand-gallon tank when oil changes are done on the buses. Residents and small entrepreneurs would usual purchase the ‘burn oil’ from them. The spill made its way downhill for about two hundred yards from the company property. An initial inspection has been done and the hope, at this time, is that the oil did not make its way into the Mopan River.


Kenrick Williams

Dr. Kenrick Williams

“What we found thus far is that from the site of storage it spilled just to about the entrance of the Mopan River. We have not been able to determine if any of the oil did make it into the Mopan River. We are presuming that so far it has not because at the time, there was a backflow coming from the floods and that may have helped to contain it. But we can never be sure at this time. There may be residuals or residues that would show up as the water recedes. As you notice, we have been trying to look at where we can see signs of spillage or residues from this spillage because that is going to be critical for clean up that is going to be critical for impacts and certainly that is going to be critical for the penalties that we lay as it relates to this impact.”


C.E.O. Doctor Kenrick Williams says that there are concerns regarding the hazards of the oil spill. Residents recreate in the area and are fearful of the harmful impact to the environment, resulting from negligence in the proper storage of the waste oil.


Dr. Kenrick Williams

“Whenever there is these spillage or leakage, you can never clean it up a hundred percent and so the implication of those are significant for animal health, for biodiversity and most importantly for human health particularly in this area. From my assessment of it and the initial assessment by the department, it is essentially due to negligence of storage container, improper storage container and not monitoring appropriately this container as prescribed by the Environmental Protection Act. And so we have to look at that. Next steps will be the law and the extent of the infraction. Certainly because this is significant negligence, we have pressed that we look at the extent of which this company is charged and held accountable.”


Chuc says that the bus company will ensure that an incident like this does not reoccur.


Sergio Chuc

“The tank will be repaired – those are expensive tanks – but this shouldn’t have happened and we have to put measures in place that it does not happen again. Right now, as we speak, I think you had visited the area and I am not sure if at this moment the contractor is there, but we will put the tank in a fully containment area so if there is ever any spill again, it won’t leak into the soil.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

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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