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La Brea MP Fitzgerald Jeffrey says oil spillaffected residents of Coffee Beach are falling sick and he believes their illnesses are linked to Petrotrin’s use of the dispersant Corexit 9500. Corexit 9500 was scientifically linked to cancer after it was used during the 2010 BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) flagged the chemical dispersant for its cancer-causing agents. Red flags were also raised locally when Petrotrin admitted to using it in the initial days after the December 17, oil spills in La Brea.
Petrotrin said it used Corexit 9500 for two days at the start of clean-up operations. The company defended its use of Corexit, saying it is listed as one of the approved dispersants on the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan and was used in accordance with approved guidelines. Speaking with the T&T Guardian in a telephone interview yesterday, Jeffrey said residents at Coffee Beach, the hardest hit area during the oil spill, have been complaining of feeling unwell.
“Yes, the beach has almost been completely cleaned, except in the mangrove...It still has a lot of work to be done in the mangrove, but people are complaining about dizziness, headaches, belly pain, chest pain, itching and so on and that worries me,” he said. Jeffrey said he reviewed what happened in Alaska (after the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill), the Gulf of Mexico (BP spill) and what residents have been complaining about and he is distressed.
“We realise that there is a similarity in the complaints and in the case of the Alaska situation we realise that there is a kind of cancer that is related to, attributed to the use of the chemical, Corexit 9500. So people are a little bit concerned about that,” he said. The La Brea MP said Petrotrin must address all health concerns raised by the residents, not only in the immediate future but later down the road as well.
“I just hope that Petrotrin will really and truly introduce free testing and do periodic testing from time to time on a free basis so that peoples’ health is not compromised,” he said. “I think that every resident should have been tested from the time we had the oil spill and we do periodic testing to see if the situation has been aggravated and so on.” Jeffrey said long-term monitoring must be implemented in the area to ensure the residents’ health is looked after.
“Some kind of arrangement must be made to give these people proper healthcare, even if it is for a ten-year or a 15-year period and so on, because the oil spill is not of their doing...They were innocent bystanders,” he said. Jeffrey said he intends to hold a media conference tomorrow (Thursday) where he will further discuss his concerns. “We want to look at the chemical that was used in the clean up...it has some consequence I think we cannot treat very lightly,” he added.
Jeffrey said he also wants to address the issue of compensation for not only the fishermen, but residents in the area. He also said crab catchers whose livelihoods are affected by the oil spill’s impact on the Aripero mangrove should be compensated. Yesterday, Environmental Management Authority (EMA) officials returned to Point Sable beach, where they met with contractors and Petrotrin staff and did air-quality monitoring tests.
Friday said investigations into the cause of the oil spill which occurred on December 17 at Pointe-a-Pierre are continuing and the operational report on the spill was reviewed on Monday. “However, investigations are continuing,” she said.
Mangrove in trouble
Environmental activist Marc De Verteuil says he is dissatisfied with Petrotrin’s delay in cleaning up the oil-spillaffected Aripero Mangrove. De Verteuil, a director of the environmental group Papa Bois Conservation, said on his visit to the mangrove on Monday he found an absence of clean-up crews and the oil spill most present. “We were surprised to find no clean-up crews active (in the mangrove on Monday),” he said.
“The beach looked much cleaner than when I was there a week ago, but there was still significant oil on the beach and the mangrove was still very much oil slicked. “The mangrove roots are covered in oil and is starting to show signs of basically being affected by the oil spill. There were yellow leaves on the mangrove.” De Verteuil said according to the US NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), yellowing leaves are a sign that the mangrove is being affected by oil and the trees are dying.
He said: “I am not at all pleased with the cleanup. We are well into a month since the oil spill occurred and the mangrove is far from being cleaned. The mangrove clean-up is very time sensitive.” De Verteuil added that the oil spill impact will be “very long-term” on the mangrove, since NOAA says it takes ten to 50 years for mangroves affected by oil spills to fully recover.
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