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Petrotrin officials assure PM: Oil Spill Contained

Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Tiger Tank Trinidad Unlimited workers conduct clean-up operations at Coffee Beach, La Brea, yesterday. PHOTOs: RISHI RAGOONATH

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar says the oil spill that has been ravaging the south-western coastline since last week has been contained and “there is no cause for panic.” Persad-Bissessar gave the assurance yesterday after an aerial and land tour of  affected areas at Carrat, Coffee and Queen beaches, La Brea. The Prime Minister, after meeting with Petrotrin chairman Lindsay Gillette and president Khalid Hassanali, and US-based oil spill expert Brian Gove, said there was nothing to “fear,” since the spill was under control.



Persad-Bissessar also said “there is no evidence that our energy sector is under serious security threat, but we will take no chances.” She said security will thus be ramped up on unmanned platforms with the assistance of T&T Coast Guard personnel. Seven of the areas that were affected by the spills, the PM said, were between 90 per cent to 100 per cent cleaned and clean-up operations were continuing at a further six areas.


Among the areas completely cleaned were Fullarton, Belle View, John William’s Place and Point Coco. However, she said clean-up at Unity Beach, Granville and Cedros was between 90 per cent to 100 per cent complete. Persad-Bissessar, who was mobbed by La Brea residents as she toured their community, admitted that the situation at Coffee beach was “bad.” She said, however, that it was not as drastic as portrayed in the media.


The Prime Minister’s visit yesterday was, however, some seven days after the actual spill began. Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine, who, along with National Security Minister Gary Griffith, Environment Minister Ganga Singh and Communications Minister Gerald Hadeed accompanied the Prime Minister yesterday, said the condition at Coffee Beach had improved significantly from Sunday when he first visited.


Petrotrin’s health, safety and environment manager Shyam Dyal said clean-up operations would take at least another week if no more oil comes ashore. Yesterday, a thick band of oil was seen further out at sea. However, the air quality at the beach had improved, with only a faint smell of oil detected. Gove, the technical adviser, health and safety at Florida-based Oil Spill Response, which was hired to assist with the clean-up, assured the Prime Minister that the spill would be contained.



He said the strategy would be to continue to place oil booms (barriers to trap the oil) and keep it offshore. Gove added that the product found in La Brea was closer to crude oil and was unrefined. “The lab tests will confirm this,” he said. He told the T&T Guardian that the spill was “a controlled event” and there would be some environmental impact. Ramnarine said samples of the oil had been sent to Houston for testing and fingerprinting to find the source of the spill. He confirmed, however, that the source was yet to be determined.



Woman delivers baby 

A 28-year-old La Brea resident affected by the oil spill along the south-western peninsula yesterday delivered a baby girl, after Petrotrin officials took her hospital when she began complaining of contractions. Tamara Montano was transported by a Petrotrin ambulance to the Point Fortin Area Hospital, where she gave birth to her third child, a release from the company said.


Montano was accompanied by Petrotrin fire and emergency medical technician Christopher Vialva and fire technician Anderson Webb, who provided primary medical care en route to the hospital. Both mother and baby were said to be in good health and resting comfortably last evening.


The company also distributed food hampers and toiletries last evening to affected residents, who have been unable to perform normal personal and household duties ahead of today’s Christmas Day celebrations due to the restrictions imposed on them because of the clean-up.


The release yesterday added that Petrotrin had mobilised all available resources to manage the containment and clean-up response, which was beefed up yesterday with the assistance of employees from Oil Spill Response Limited from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the UK. 


Among other things, residents located within the immediate area of the spill were advised to refrain from using open or naked flames due to the presence of flammable hydrocarbons in the atmosphere. The company has been providing meals for some 100 affected residents since then. The company is also collaborating with the respective fisherfolk associations between La Brea and Cedros to facilitate timely compensation payments and replacement equipment to their members.


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