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Petrotrin oil spill spreads to La Brea

Fishermen suffer losses as...
Thursday, December 19, 2013
The shoreline of Station Beach in La Brea is blanketed with oil after a spill that occurred in Point-a-Pierre on Monday, spread to other areas yesterday. PHOTO: KRISTIAN DE SILVA

Hundreds of La Brea residents were in some discomfort last night because of  toxic fumes emanating from an oil spill which Petrotrin claimed to have contained the day before. And residents are demanding answers from the state-run oil giant. 



A Petrotrin official last evening confirmed that based on reports they had received yesterday, a spill which they initially discovered in Pointe-a-Pierre on Tuesday, and claimed to have contained there, may have affected the Point Fortin and La Brea communities because of the movement of the tide. 



But this has offered little solace for irate resident Ashwain Modeste, who lives near Queen’s Beach, also known as the “D Coffee,” in La Brea, where the oil spill was most evident yesterday. He expressed horror upon seeing the thick oil sludge that lined the shoreline. “They (Petrotrin) say they have everything contained...look at that,” Modeste said when the Guardian visited, pointing to the thick pools of oil along the shore.



Modeste said the pungent smell of crude oil, which caused a nauseous feeling, was overwhelming and would have brought discomfort for his family last night. “I do not know how we going to make out with that here tonight (last night) and there is nothing that could be done now about it. The tide high and the wind strong,” he lamented. 



Petrotrin, in a release issued earlier in the day, had assured that “it has mobilised all available resources to manage the spill response efforts in an effective and efficient manner and the situation is under control.” However, it was clear to worried fishermen in La Brea that the oil spill was far from contained. Many fishermen yesterday looked on helplessly as their boats, moored near the shore at “D Coffee,” became enveloped in the oily sludge. Their fishing nets, which were tied in the water, had all been destroyed.


Fisherman Wilbert Ping, 59, of Freeling Street, La Brea, said he could not believe his eyes when he saw the oil spill heading to the shore around 1 pm. “When I see it (the oil spill) all the boats were already tied up. There was nothing nobody could do. The fishermen and them leave already. We tried to call some of them, but nobody could save their boats,” he lamented. He said no one could go out into the water until Petrotrin cleaned the oily sludge.


Last night, Petrotrin personnel, some wearing face masks and dressed in coveralls, gathered on the shore at Queen’s Beach to assess the oil damage. Crews were seen emptying bags of Carsorb Peat Moss—an absorbant used to clean up oil spills—along the shore and in the water to stop the oil from spreading further inland.


Earlier yesterday, however, the Petrotrin release had stated that following oil spill clean-up efforts on Tuesday, personnel at Petrotrin “observed from an aerial survey as well as boat surveys conducted today (yesterday), that there was no sheen or oil along the shoreline spanning Claxton Bay, San Fernando, Mosquito Creek and Otaheite.”


The release said: “Response efforts have been co-ordinated in collaboration with personnel from the Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs and the Environmental Management Agency.” 



But the environmental impact of the oil spill was clear yesterday, as crabs scurrying out of their holes to get their nightly meal last night were trapped in the sludge that lined the shore. Apart from the oily sheen on the water, oil was seen on the sand and the debris that washed ashore. Oil was also seen on the shoreline at Station Bay, which is almost a mile away from Queen’s Bay.


Andre Kirton, 50, who resides near Station Beach, said when he went for his evening run he was stunned to see the oil on the sand and the murky brown hue of the sea water. “We need to get someone to come in and clean up the beach. I was shocked to see the condition the beach was in because when I take my morning run today (yesterday), the beach was nice and clean and the air was not smelling like this,” he said.


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