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Gulf Oil Spill Won’t Impact Territory, NOAA Says

Oil from the Deepwater Horizon, which began spewing into the Gulf of Mexico after the offshore oil rig exploded April 20, won’t impact the Virgin Islands, National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration spokesman Ben Sherman said from NOAA’s Washington, D.C. office.
“Because of the way the currents go and because you’re so far south,” he said.
If the oil impacts any Caribbean island, Sherman said it would be Cuba.
Should the oil from the BP-operated rig exit the Gulf, Sherman said the “most likely scenario” would take it into the loop current that runs around the southern tip of Florida and up the East Coast.
Mark Walters, head of V.I Territorial Emergency Management Agency, agreed with the NOAA assessment on the likelihood of the spill reaching the Virgin Islands.
“But we can’t rule anything out,” he said.
When asked what would happen if an oil spill occurred close to the Virgin Islands, he said VITEMA would have to ask the U.S. Coast Guard for assistance.
“We don’t have the capability to handle a spill,” he said.
Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad could not be reached for comment.
Walters said that if a problem occurred at the Hovensa oil refinery on St. Croix, the company has the ability to deal with it. Hovensa spokesman Alex Moorhead said that the refinery has an emergency response organization and a plan to deal with any spills that might occur.
“We have personnel trained based on that plan,” Moorhead, who recently retired but continues as the company spokesman, said.
They train periodically to test their skills and the readiness of the equipment, Moorhead said.
The Deepwater Horizon killed 11 workers, whose bodies were never found.
The oil rig sank April 22, which is when a large oil slick began to emerge. Coincidently, April 22 was Earth Day.
Efforts to reach both local and regional U.S. Environmental Protection Agency staff were unsuccessful.

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