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Oil spill clean-up grinds to a halt as La Brea residents demand more $$
Oil spill clean-up efforts in La Brea ground to a halt yesterday, after angry residents demanded an increase in the hourly rate they were being paid to assist in mopping-up operations. Armed Coast Guard and police officers descended on Coffee Beach, La Brea, as the residents, most of whom were dressed in oil-stained white plastic body suits and rubber boots, registered their disapproval over the $35 hourly rate Petrotrin was paying them.
The situation threatened to ignite as residents confronted employees of contractors Tiger Tanks and Petrotrin Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) officers. Senior Supt David Lewis, who is in charge of South Western Division, visited the area and spoke with residents in order to quell the situation. Yesterday, Carlton Plenty, spokesman for the residents of Coffee Beach, said Petrotrin was not giving the residents a fair deal.
“We intend to shut down the work. We have to stop the work for a little while until they give us a little accommodation. We need this money too. This is oil we are in here,” he said. Plenty said residents will not have a bright Christmas because of Petrotrin and they deserved a better rate. He said the residents were initially promised $40 and later informed they would receive less.
“We cannot work for that amount. It is oil we are dealing with here, we have no water here, we have nothing to eat here, people are sick here, children are getting sick. We need a help-out in this situation,” he said. Residents, he said, were being made to work in the oil without proper equipment such as gas masks. Yesterday, plastic barriers were placed along the shore to soak oil as it washed ashore in La Brea.
Ashram Rampersad, 37, a fisherman, said Petrotrin did not have the situation under control even though they were trying their best. “The situation is improving but very slowly. They said they have the oil contained but it is not so. They are working, but not fast enough to contain the oil spill,” Rampersad lamented. He said fishermen were pleased Petrotrin had promised compensation for their boats and the down time they will be experiencing because of the spill.
Rampersad also advised fish lovers to brace for high fish prices, since the oil spill will significantly reduce the availability of fish on the local market. The Environmental Management Authority (EMA), Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management and the Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs have formed an advisory committee to oversee the oil spill situation, the Guardian was told.
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