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Chatham residents evacuated

Saturday, December 21, 2013
Petrotrin finds 4 separate oil leaks
Dershwin de Gannes hugs his daughters—Dillian five, and Shennice, three—at their Granville Beach home yesterday where clean-up operations were underway after an oil spill contaminated the area. The family was eventually evacuated. PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH

Families from Chatham had to be evacuated from their homes last evening, after the oil spill which had been wreaking havoc in La Brea reached their doorsteps. An entire nine-mile stretch of the shoreline, spanning the Coffee Beach/Carrat Shed Beach areas in La Brea, has been caked in oil. The T&T Guardian was informed that Petrotrin had removed several Chatham families after children and women began complaining of feeling unwell when oil began washing ashore at Granville.



In a release last evening, the state-run oil company said there were in fact four separate oil leaks this week and it was still unclear where the oil from the spill at La Brea had originated. The company added that it was now concerned about the “frequency” of the incidents. An investigation has been launched into the oil spills. Since the oil began washing ashore at La Brea, 25 people have been treated at hospital. Of the 25, one had to be provided with further care. 


Yesterday, a Chatham resident told the Guardian that Petrotrin began evacuating residents along Granville Beach last evening after the nauseating smell of the oil, which was washing ashore, began making them feel ill. Dershwin De Gannes, 35, of Granville, expressed concern for the health of his unborn baby after his one-month-pregnant wife Sherrise Indarsingh, 19, began vomiting moments after she went outside their house, which is mere steps away from the beach.


He said he sent Indarsingh to the area’s health centre for a check-up and when he checked his two daughters, Dillian, five, and Shennice, three, they were both vomiting. “The place smelling oily. She (Indarsingh) come out and she started to vomit immediately. She leave and gone by the clinic after she start to vomit. I come outside and the smell was stronger. I find the two children vomiting too,” he said.


De Gannes said he bathed the children and put them in an enclosed room and turned on a fan to keep the smell away. He said the conditions caused by the oil, which started washing ashore on Thursday, worsened yesterday. “There was plenty oil,” he said. “We cannot walk on the sand. “Petrotrin is not handling this at all. It have other houses in the back here that is being affected. They do not understand how to deal with it. I am very concerned for her safety. When it come to my children I do not like here at all.” 


Last evening, De Gannes and the rest of his family was taken to Lake Asphalt medical facility for treatment after they fell ill. Their neighbour Naaila Ali, 27, and her two daughters, were also taken for medical treatment after they complained of feeling sick. Pools of oil were seen rolling on the waves towards the shore while clean-up crews from Harristruct contractors scraped oil from the surface of the sand at Granville when the Guardian visited yesterday.


Despite efforts over the past three days, Petrotrin has failed to contain the spill at La Brea. Yesterday, the spill appeared to have worsened with the rising tides. The spills at Pointe-a-Pierre, Riser Platform 5 and Platform 17 in Trinmar, while linked to the company’s operations, were successfully contained, Petrotrin said. The clean-up exercise is expected to be completed in those areas within 24 hours, it added.



Petrotrin responds:

Petrotrin said while the source of the spill in La Brea was still undetermined, it had mobilised all available resources to manage the spill response efforts. The company said trained counsellors from Petrotrin Employee Assistance Programme Services Ltd were also made available to residents and it is exploring the possibility of temporarily relocating the affected residents with the local government representatives for the area.



The leaks

Petrotrin, in its release, explained that on Tuesday, a weld leak developed on the No 10 Sea Line at the Pointe-a-Pierre port during fuel oil bunker loading operations for the barge Marabella. Later that same day, a gasket on a 16-inch line on Riser Platform 5 in Trinmar’s Main Field leaked and oil spilled into the sea.


On Wednesday, Petrotrin received reports of oil at the Coffee Beach/Carrat Shed Beach areas in La Brea, affecting the beach and fishing vessels. And on Thursday, an oil leak was reported in the area of Platform 17 in Petrotrin’s Trinmar Operations East Field.
“Surveillance exercises conducted by air and sea have not established a connection among the four incidents,” Petrotrin said. 


“Preliminary laboratory tests conducted on samples of oil taken from the spill in the La Brea area suggest that this spill did not originate from Pointe-a-Pierre or Riser Platform 5 and Platform 17 in the Trinmar area.” As  a result, Petrotrin said, the source of the oil from the La Brea spill was still undetermined.


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