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Marabella residents breathe easier

Published: 
Saturday, August 9, 2014

Life was closer to normal for many in Marabella as children played happily in the street yesterday, and residents relaxed outside their homes talking and laughing. The scene was a far cry from last week’s when simply standing outside caused severe discomfort to the residents of Silk Cotton Road, Mango Alley and Bayshore, as they endured the putrid smell of oil spilled in the Guaracara River after a tank ruptured at Petrotrin’s Pointe-a-Pierre refinery. 

The nauseating smell that had hung heavily in the air after the oil spill was faint yesterday when the T&T Guardian visited the area. The water in the river, which runs behind many of the homes in the area, was a brownish hue, a welcome colour for many after the coating of oil on it over the last week. While an oil boom remained in the river, the rainbow-hued oil sheen that came after the oil spill had disappeared from the water’s surface.

Ian Noel, 28, cuddled his 10-month-old son Josiah yesterday as they sat on the corner of Silk Cotton Road and Mango Alley. He said last week he could not bring the baby outside because of the fumes, addling that the child had developed a rash following the spill. Now, he said, “I am relieved. We could come outside. We could breathe again. I could not come out here with the baby. He feeling better now. Petrotrin give us some medication for the rash.”

Noel, who kept watch over children playing on the street, said the conditions had improved significantly and the residents were very happy. “We feeling better that things are improving here. It is a relief after a week of gas and fumes. Petrotrin said they coming tomorrow (today) to do check-ups on everybody who was feeling sick,” Noel said. Yesterday, children Jahmal Castang, nine; and his friends Kyle, five; Keonna, eight; and Kody Marcano, 10, ran races and played with their toy car on Silk Cotton Road. 

Kevin Redhead, 27, was seen eating a hearty soup outside his front gate, something he said he could not imagine doing last week when the oil spill occurred. 

“It is plenty better now. I eating this (soup) without salt because the oil smell get in my salt. Things better now, but we need we house vacuumed or something, cause the smell inside. We still want compensation. People going for check-ups, but no one fainting or feeling sick like before. We could breathe better, but Petrotrin have to keep their word. We not taking broken promises, or we marching again,” Redhead said. 

Daniel Motoo, 54, relaxed in his hammock under his Sixth Street Extension home yesterday afternoon. He said things were more comfortable in his neighbourhood and the river had returned to its natural colour. He said residents were cleared on Sunday to cook in their homes and he was pleased about that. Heart patient Susan Rampaul, 68, was seen taking in the fresh air in her front porch at her Sixth Street Extension home yesterday. 

She said she was happy to finally be able to breathe clean air again. “It was a time. Now I could relax in my gallery. Everything okay, now. With the rain, we not getting much smell and the river clean,” she said. 

Petrotrin investigation
Petrotrin has issued notices of investigation to two employees as enquiries continue into the slop oil leak at the Pointe-a-Pierre Refinery that occurred last Tuesday. Yesterday, Petrotrin, in a brief media release, said the notices were issued as part of an ongoing independent investigation by auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The state-run oil company suspended nine employees this week and its vice president of refining and marketing last Saturday following the oil spill that saw 17,000 barrels of slop oil escape from a ruptured tank which had been flagged as leaking in 2010. No action had been taken to repair the tank before its eventual rupture on Tuesday. An estimated 5,000 barrels of the oil made its way into the nearby Guaracara River.