by Larry Smith
Following the recent gasoline spill at the Rubis station on Robinson Road, I decided to take a closer look at ground zero.
Now it stands empty and shuttered, following repeated evacuations due to dangerous fuel leaks and vapour releases at what is now a Rubis service station. The French petroleum distributor, Rubis, acquired Chevron/Texaco’s regional assets in 2012.
Entering the disused customer service building is like stepping onto the set of an apocalyptic movie - furniture, paper and wires are strewn over the floor, fixtures and wall panels are stripped, and there is an eerie pall of silence over everything. Although no gasoline odour is detectable, within minutes a visitor’s eyes start to water and burn.
“We drilled test wells around the perimeter of our building in early 2013,” Cable’s technical manager John Gomez, a former BEC engineer, told me. “We found a good two feet of pure gasoline in the wells. You could have pumped it straight into your car.”
A 20-year-old corroded dispensing pipe at the Rubis station led to the escape of thousands of gallons of gasoline into the ground from November 2012 to January 2013. The fuel accumulated at the water table and spread out in a subterranean plume that swept past the Cable building beneath Robinson Road and into the residential neighbourhood of Marathon.
The spill forced dozens of people working in the area to seek hospital treatment, and one Cable employee was left with serious on-going health issues. Many nearby residents were exposed to contaminated well water and toxic fumes for over 18 months, and Cable Bahamas says the commercial disruptions it faces are costing big time.