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After seven days of oil spill, residents say: We’re suffering

Published: 
Monday, August 4, 2014
Petrotrin workers continue clean-up operations yesterday, following last Tuesday’s leak that led to thousands of barrels of oil from the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery escaping into the Guaracara River. PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH

Marabella residents say they are still suffering from the effects of last week Tuesday’s oil spill even though Petrotrin says close to 80 per cent of oil in the Guaracara River has been cleaned. Today marks seven days since oil escaped from the Petrotrin Pointe-a-Pierre refinery, when one of its tanks (MP 6) failed, and found its way into the Guaracara River. Residents of Bayshore (South) Marabella lamented yesterday that Petrotrin has ignored their plight and the suffering they are experiencing because of the oil spill. 

They also claim oil has reached the Gulf of Paria despite Petrotrin’s assurance on Saturday that it successfully blocked the river mouth with oil booms keeping the oil out of the sea. Bayshore resident Cory Green said there were dead fish, crabs, pelicans and even caimans floating on the sea at the end of the river and a pool of oil. He said Petrotrin is not being honest with the residents and the country.

Yesterday, because of the low tide, Green could not take the media out to the river mouth by boat to point out where he found the dead animals. However, he said the conditions in Bayshore were inhumane and Petrotrin is not treating with the residents concerns.

“They not coming and telling people what is going on. People falling sick, little children coughing, bringing up blood. They just bawling ‘how if you have any place you could carry your children carry them away from the smell.’ But this is where we live, this is something really serious. They moving like they do not care about the residents,” Green said. Green said his wife is six months and three weeks pregnant and he is afraid for the health of his baby. 

“This thing is serious, dangerous and long term. Next thing you see my child, God forbid, my child born with three hands or I could have a stillborn. I do not want that. I would like them to come do something about this and talk to people. We would like to be evacuated from this area,” he said. Green said Petrotrin placed him and his wife and their two children in a guesthouse on Saturday night, but he was displeased because it was an unsavory facility. 

Yesterday, Petrotrin workers were busy adjusting oil booms along the river and cleaning oil stained trees along the river bank. The strong smell of oil lingered in the air along Bayshore, Marabella. Mother of two, Jade Blackburn-Mohammed, was on the brink of tears as she described the pain her eight-year-old son Jadan was experiencing since Tuesday’s spill. She said she had to take him to his grandparents’ home because he kept falling ill. He was vomiting and had consistent complaints of abdominal pains.

“They (Petrotrin doctors at Augustus Long Hospital) say send him (Jadan) by his grandparents for some days. I send him because I do not want anything to happen to my child. If something will happen to him will Petrotrin be able to compensate me? Compensation will not be able to bring back my child,” she sobbed. She said her daughter Jada, Jadan’s twin sister, has also complained of breathing problems because of the smell. 

Yesterday, the little girl was coughing and covered her nose with a napkin as she hugged her mother’s leg while she spoke with reporters.

Family evacuated
At Mango Alley, Silk Cotton Road, Marabella, the smell of oil from the river was less pronounced. However, Special Reserve Police (SRP) Glenis Quashie-Dalrymple, who is asthmatic, said she was still experiencing respiratory problems. She told the T&T Guardian that Petrotrin was evacuating her family to a guesthouse to give them some relief from the smell. Yesterday, Quashie-Dalyrimple was busy packing her suitcase with clothing for herself, her husband and three children.

“Thirty-six years I have been living here. I pass through the Cat Cracker blowing-up and other things, but this is the worse it has been. I am worried about leaving my belongings behind, but they have made arrangements with the Marabella police for regular patrols in the area so I am ok. I also work there so it (the house) should be safe,” she said. 

Mango Alley residents, Marley King and Keshon Alms, expressed dissatisfaction yesterday that Pointe-a-Pierre MP Errol Mc Leod has not visited the residents to date to enquire about their condition. Elms said the Prime Minister should remove Mc Leod because he does not care about his constituents.

Petrotrin responds
In a statement late yesterday, Petrotrin said within the past 24 hours, medical attention had been provided for 19 residents at the company’s emergency outpost and six people were treated at the Augustus Long Hospital. The company said, in addition to clean-up and recovery efforts, “we have established a continuous presence in our Marabella community to attend to the concerns of the impacted residents as part of our community outreach efforts.”

It said the 24-hour emergency response shelter, set up in conjunction with the San Fernando City Corporation, remains open at the Marabella North Government Secondary School (formerly Marabella Senior Comprehensive School). “In the past 24 hours, our team has attended to residents who have accessed the facility and one family has been temporarily relocated,”

As of 9 am this morning, we have recovered an estimated 80 per cent of the residual slop oil that had seeped into the Guaracara River. In some areas, clear water is visible with a light sheen where vestiges of the slop oil are present. We continue to complete the first phase of our clean-up efforts, which is to remove all the residual slop oil in the Guaracara River,” the release also said. 

Petrotrin said residents with concerns can contact the company’s emergency hotline at 658-0235 between 7 am and 4 pm and 658-4200 ext 2410 after 4 pm