Ian K Ramdhanie, msC,
Strong hydrocarbon fumes continue to affect Marabella residents as they prepare to bring back their children to the oil-stricken community, ahead of the new school term. Many of the children were sent away when the slop oil first started seeping through the community late last month. Residents said heavy rains over the weekend had caused the oil to float downstream, staining the banks of the Guaracara River which flows into the Gulf of Paria.
When the T&T Guardian visited Mango Alley, oil was seen floating on the river. Its fumes were also pungent. A floating log was drenched in black crude. Lilawati Ramlakhan, who has been living on the river bank for 16 years, was concerned that the fumes would affect her grandson Jordan Ramlochan who was sent away to stay with relatives.
“Jordan has to start school next week at the Harmony Hall RC but now that we seeing oil again, I am worried to bring him back here,” Ramlakhan said. She added that Petrotrin must clean up all the oil from the river immediately. We are fed up with the smell and this weekend it was really bad. Whenever rain falls the smell gets unbearable,” Ramlakhan said. Shelby Lange, who has two children—Deica Brown and Soriah Lange—said he was also worried.
He said he lost his job at K&K Tile Expert because of the spill. “I got really sick and I stayed away from work for more than a week. When I went back for my job they said I was already replaced. Now I am unemployed and I have two children to send to school,” Lange said. He added that Petrotrin promised to hire him but never did. Keyshawn Elms, who has three children, said he was concerned that more oil was coming back on the river.
“We do not know if the oil they tried to sink in the river using chemical, is now coming up. All we know is that two days ago, we started seeing heavy crude and we tried to call Petrotrin over the weekend but as usual, there was no answer,” Elms said. He added that his children—Jeremy, nine, Josiah, five and Jessica, three—had to go to school from September but he was concerned about their health.
“My son Jeremy still has irritations to his eyes. We took him to Augustus Long Hospital and they washed it out but I was not happy with the way we were treated. The nurses said we are from the slums,” Elms said. A source at Petrotrin said yesterday that the heavy hydrocarbon fumes occurred when an operator inadvertently caused some diesel to spill out of a tank. The source said there was no leak. The official said the cleaning and polishing of the banks of the Guaracara River would continue for the next month.
In yet another mishap, Petrotrin said in a statement yesterday a quantity of diesel fuel was spilled during routine operations at the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery on Saturday. The state-owned oil and gas company said approximately 280 barrels of diesel was recovered and there was no evidence of hydrocarbons spilling into the drainage systems.