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Reporting and commentary from OnEarth editors and correspondents
The lower photo is in my opinion not made by Elsmarie Beukenboom, but by Frank Bierings
Thanks - I'll look into it and make any corrections necessary.
We've corrected the photo attribution. Thanks for pointing it out.
Thanks for covering this story. I'd love to see a concise list of petroleum spills/disasters from the last 50 years put in one place so one could easily see just how frequent and prolific these problems are. As your article suggests, we think of Bonaire or Deep Horizon as a one-off incident but really this stuff is happening week after week. Bonaire dodged a bullet on this one: those tanks are only a few meters from the pristine coastline. If you step back and think about it, it seems like we're just asking for a disaster by placing oil storage facilities next to the most precious marine reserve in the area. Really?! Was that the ONLY place for those tanks??? I'm very curious why Amsterdam agreed to let Venezuela build them there. Last note: Earlier this year Bonaire installed 13 wind generation turbines, joining Curacao as a leader in the region for wind power. The island has also built a new state-of-the-art biodiesel plant to supplement wind power. Given their rather forward position on energy, enduring an old-school/oil-age disaster like this one seems especially backwards.
While researching the story, I wished for the same thing: a list of similar incidents with full details of each. There may already be a database out there, but I haven't seen it. As you point out, siting is clearly an important issue. The tanks were built near the water because they're used to store oil and oil products for shipping to Asia on very large tankers. The closer to the water, the shorter the pipeline to the dock.Of course, if something should happen...well, that's a problem for the incredible marine life on the reefs there. BTW, I believe the tanks were originally owned by a U.S. oil company.
For anyone to say there has been no negative effects from the oil fire on Bonaire is to be open for criticism. I am a biologist, having lived on Bonaire for 16 years as a birder, fish id and marine instructor and I did a bird tour behind the Bopec site on Wednesday 15 September, 2010. It had been exactly one week since the oil fire. What gave me pause was the oil coated leaves of all the plants within 2.5 miles of the burn site. The vegetative processes that plants depend on with the leaves are compromised by the oil-coated surfaces of all the plants, and, I predict, will likely lose their leaves. Also, all cacti were coated with black oil residue and a strong petroleum order could not be ignored. I studied one small group of Brown-throated Parakeets, Aratinga pertinax, that came to a nearby tree. The normal, bright yellow throat and face was blackened, most likely from their feeding on the cacti fruit that are similarly coated with the fall-out rain that brought this petroleum-laden plume back to earth.