Tuesday, Jul 23rd

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Editorial - One too many

NuStar said less than two gallons of crude oil had spilt into the sea at Statia Terminal on Saturday night (see Tuesday paper). It was even described as a "pinhole leakage."

The company's Public Relations (PR) Department clearly did a good job of "damage control" by saying the hose that sprang a leak had been secured within one minute of detection, the small amount of released oil had dissipated quickly and there had been very little impact on the environment.

This is not exactly the first time, with similar incidents in both June and August 2013 as well as on January 15 last year. One could argue that it's perhaps unavoidable to have an occasional mishap where oil products are being pumped to and from ships on a daily basis, but the stakes are rather high.

Other than the terminal, St. Eustatius greatly relies on the income from visitors, a lot of them eco-tourists, for its economic survival. The abundant marine life found around the island is a key part of its tourism product, but obviously also important to local fishermen and their families.

Moreover, the sheen of oil in this latest case was seen heading in a Western direction on the prevailing current. In the past such residue actually has reached nearby fellow Caribbean Netherlands territory Saba, which led to concern for a possible negative effect on Saba Bank with its underwater riches.

Petroleum companies in general operating within the region should be especially conscious of their added responsibility in terms of preserving the natural beauty of the area, because the livelihood of people who live here literally depends on it to a large extent.

For example, just like most industrial materials, hoses have a documented average lifespan, so they require frequent inspection and timely replacement. That does not mean an accident can always be prevented, but proper planning and adequate maintenance go a long way.

NuStar claims it's committed to being a good neighbour and strong environment steward. The company deserves the benefit of the doubt for now, but in the end every spill is simply one too many.