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Petrotrin president Khalid Hassanali says the state-owned oil company has spent $8 million so far to clean up the spill at La Brea. Hassanali made the comment during a news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair yesterday. It followed a second meeting between company officials, led by chairman Lindsay Gillette, and the National Security Council, chaired by acting Prime Minister Errol McLeod, in the past four days.
The largest oil spill in recent history occurred on December 17 over a nine-mile area of the La Brea coastline. Petrotrin hired Oil Spills Response Limited of the United States to assist with the clean-up exercise last week and work is continuing. Gillette told reporters the cost is expected to be much more than $8 million in the end. “It is going to be a lot more spending but when it is done we will say this is what it cost. “We are not sparing anything, we are going to spend whatever is required to make sure this thing goes away.”
In response to a call by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley for an urgent independent inquiry to be done on the spill, Gillette said “that was his (Rowley’s) view.” Gillette said the company had competent people who were committed to addressing the matter. He said Petrotrin was also working with the Environmental Authority in that regard.
Meanwhile, Hassanali said over the past two weeks of clean-up operations, the company had collected about 1,100 to 1,200 barrels of oil from the La Brea coastline. He said on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, protesters in La Brea had prevented workers from engaging in clean-up operations as they were demanding more employment. However, Hassanali said there have been “unfortunate incidents” because the workload had decreased.
Hassanali said more manual work would be done in the coming days to prevent recontamination by some of the heavy equipment. Consequently, he said, there will be opportunities over next week or two. Petrotrin’s manager health, safety and the environment (HSE) Shyam Dial, who also spoke at the conference, said the La Brea oil spill has had “minimal impact on birds and fish. There has been no major fish kill, there has been no major environmental disaster in terms of dead birds, floating crabs.”
Dial said Petrotrin had also been following the best practices to clean the spill in sensitive areas and shoreline areas. He said propellors were being used to disperse the oil and rough sea conditions were also assisting in dispersing the oil. No large quantity of chemicals have been used to clean the spill, he added.
He said there were a number of natural oil seeps in the marine area of La Brea, adding that naturally, oil will continuously seep from those areas into the water. Dial said that oil won’t be seen on the surface because there were microbes in the water and fish and other aquatic animals adapt to those conditions over years and build up a resistance. “This will help us in our remediation and rehabilitation of that whole area,” Dial told reporters.
In response to another question, vice-president exploration and production Jamaludin Khan said the oil spill did not affect the start of the seismic survey. Environmentalists have objected to the survey, saying it would have adverse effects on the fish. Khan said the exercise was in progress. He said the project started at Crew’s Inn, Chaguaramas, earlier this week in the company’s eastern field waters.
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