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Petrotrin faces legal action from EMA

Friday, December 20, 2013
Oil spill reaches Chatham...
Petrotrin official inspects the impact of the oil spill at Queen’s Beach, La Brea, yesterday. PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH

An oil spill which began in Pointe-a-Pierre on Tuesday worsened yesterday, as it spread along the south-western peninsula coastline, reaching as far as Chatham. And its impending impact now has state-run oil giant Petrotrin facing possible legal action from the Environmental Management Authority (EMA), since the devastation caused by the spill has already affected several communities and hundreds of citizens and was yet to be contained up to last night.



The EMA, in a release yesterday, said: “Once the source of the spillage is determined, the EMA will be assessing the situation from a legal and compliance perspective to ascertain whether there is any breach in environmental legislation.” 



EMA acting managing director Gayatri Badri Maharaj said “a comprehensive investigation and continuous monitoring will be conducted by the EMA to ensure that any threat to the ecology within the affected area is contained, and that the clean-up activities are efficiently managed.” She added that “human and environmental impacts will be treated with priority.”


In a release yesterday, Petrotrin confirmed that oil was observed at Point Cocoa Beach in Chatham. This came on the heels of oil washing ashore at Queen’s Beach and Station Beach in La Brea on Wednesday. The spill started when a ten-inch main ruptured in Pointe-a-Pierre on Tuesday. The horrific damage from the oil spill became evident in La Brea as dawn broke and tides receded yesterday.


Boats caked with oil and damaged fishing nets lined the shore as Petrotrin/Trinmar health, safety and environment employees battled high winds and rolling waves to contain the spill. The pungent smell of crude oil had enveloped the community overnight and was still noticeable yesterday.



Health woes for residents

La Brea residents, including young children, were taken to the Lake Asphalt facility in Brighton for medical treatment after complaining of respiratory problems and nausea. Teenager Josiah Francis, an asthma patient, had to be taken there by ambulance after he collapsed at his Queen’s Beach home.


The EMA, in its release, said it had strongly advised Petrotrin “to secure and temporarily evacuate the impacted area, especially young children, babies and pregnant mothers, and ensure all sensitive assets in the area are accounted for and secured.” Backhoes were seen scraping the top layer of sand, which was soaked with oil, from the shore yesterday.


Petrotrin, in its release, said it had engaged the services of three contractors, and a fourth contractor with a crew of 25 community personnel trained in oil spill response, from the La Brea area, was being mobilised. It assured that “environmentally friendly shoreline and mangrove cleaning solvents, as well as oil absorbent materials are currently being used in the clean-up efforts.”


However, Petrotrin’s assurance meant little to the fishermen who lost their boats and were unable to fish because of the condition of the water. La Brea residents also yesterday vowed to block roads to prevent Petrotrin from continuing clean-up operations today unless they are given work. Yesterday, resident Wendell Thomas, backed by other residents, said Petrotrin should give the residents an opportunity to join in the clean-up effort and make money for Christmas.


“We cannot fish. If they could give us a day work or two we could spend a little time for the Christmas too and something for the youths,” Thomas said. Kennedy Lewis, a fisherman for the past 27 years, said this was not the first oil spill in the area. He said there was one ten years ago, but the current one was much worse. “Is losses, plenty losses for everybody. Everybody lost their boat right now. Everybody feel it,” he lamented.


Charamaine Montano, 50, meanwhile, said she was worried about the health of her grandchildren, the youngest being four months old.


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