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Fishermen, residents under pressure

Sunday, December 29, 2013
Daniel Downey, a fisherman on the Daltero fishing boat at Kings Wharf, San Fernando, shows a net soiled by oil. Daniel claims the net was sullied while fishing four miles away from Petrotrin's Point-a-Pierre facilities on Friday night. PHOTO: KRISTIAN DE SILVA

Thick blankets of crude oil floating two miles off the Pointe-a-Pierre jetty have left fishermen wondering whether a tenth oil leak has developed in the Gulf of Paria. The disaster, which Petrotrin officials suspect is man-made, has affected hundreds of residents, fishermen, plant and marine life. The oil, which spread from Pointe-a-Pierre to Icacos, is being restrained by containment booms, while environmental-friendly solvents and oil-spill sorbent materials are being used to aid in the clean-up efforts. 



 Captain Amitabh Dookeran and Daniel Willichen said they were fishing aboard a 30-foot pirogue called Galtero, off the Pointe-a-Pierre jetty when their nets became swathed in oil. Boat owner Mitch Ching Kung Chew said he was puzzled by the location of the leak. He said if it was an old spill, the sea currents would have caused it to spread downwind towards La Brea. Asked why he had continued fishing knowing that the sea was contaminated with oil, Chew said his captain and crew depended on the sea for their survival.


“They doing this all their life. They have no other source of income, and this is why we went out,” Chew said. He added that his crew had fished in that area several days before and there was no spill. Chew also said T&T was too advanced in technology and experienced in oil drilling for such accidents to occur so frequently.


Last evening, Petrotrin teams were busy checking all port and marine facilities in the Gulf of Paria to determine if there was a new leak. Since December 17, when the first two leaks were spotted, land and air surveillance have been boosted. 



Meanwhile, at La Brea and Granville, clean-up efforts continued. La Brea resident Onika Branka renewed her call for relocation saying Coffee beach was no longer habitable. She said even though crews were working every day to clean up the spill, more oil was continuing to flow. She said residents were suffering from diarrhoea and nausea because of the spill.



During a press conference on Boxing Day, President General of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union Ancel Roget accused Petrotrin of covering up the spill. He blamed lease operator Trinity Exploration and Production for the environmental damage, saying Petrotrin had reduced security by almost 80 per cent, leaving the company’s assets open to thieves, saboteurs and plunderers.



Petrotrin in a statement said samples have been sent to the US to determine the source of the leak. A temporary shelter has also been established at the La Brea Community Centre where meals, food hampers and toiletries are being distributed to residents.



It’s not us— Trinity
Meanwhile, lease operator Trinity Exploration and Production yesterday distanced itself from the nine oil spills. The energy company, with interests in the UK and off the Gulf of Paria, said the spills never originated from its operations. Communications manager, Ann Marie Ganness, said, “A leak of this scale would represent a sizeable portion of Trinity’s daily production. If the oil were ours we would be obliged, by law, to report a significant shortfall in production.”


Ganness added, “We continue to monitor all operations throughout our locations ensuring that our health, safety and environmental policies are adhered to.” Ganness said the company was listed on the London Stock Exchange and would be duty-bound to report such a dip in its production. “Trinity’s production has been unaffected during this period,” she added. The company, she said, would continue to work with all stakeholders to provide assistance where required.


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