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More health woes for oil spill victims

Friday, August 29, 2014
Marabella resident Keshorn Elms with his son Jeremy, who has been complaining of irritation to his eyes following last month’s oil spill. PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH

Health woes continue for Marabella residents as children and adults complain of eye and skin irritation after a diesel spill on Saturday at the nearby Pointe-a-Pierre refinery. This follows last month’s spill of slop oil at the refinery which led to over 5,000 barrels of oil making its way into the Guaracara River. It caused chaos and confusion for the residents and incurred significant losses for the company. 

Yesterday, residents complained of red eyes and skin rashes, which, they said, started when the slop oil spilled in the river last month and were exacerbated by Saturday’s diesel spill. 
Keshorn Elms, of Silk Cotton Street, Marabella, said his children have been complaining of itchy skin and burning eyes. He said Petrotrin had a medical service in the area and residents were making use of the medical shuttle.

He was unhappy with the distress the irritations were causing his young children, like his three-year-old daughter Jessica, and nine-year-old son Jeremy. “Since the oil spill he had a sick eye. It red and scratching. I carry him for the medical check-up and they give me something to wash it out but it still there. Since the diesel spill it get worse. She (Jessica) get a rash on she skin too,” Elms said. 

He said his family members were not the only ones affected by the diesel spill. He said other residents have been complaining of feeling unwell.  “On a morning we are getting a high smell. Day before (Tuesday) the river was black (with oil )but the rain come down and wash it down. Now the river is brownish. The sides of the river still black.” Elms said residents were hoping Petrotrin would keep its word to residents to provide employment and medical care for affected people. 

He said Petrotrin and the residents were expected to meet last evening to address their concerns.  Elms said the company promised employment for the residents but when they went to the refinery they were only being given ten days of employment.  “They only making promises. Right now they are only talking and nothing positive coming. They giving a little ten and 11 days but that not really doing anything.”

Radica Villafana, of Claudia Street, hoped Petrotrin would make good on its promise to compensate residents for their distress. She said the company had offered residents one year of medical care but she said that was insufficient. “If after one year we start getting sick then we have to take money out of our pockets. That is not right. They should give us something more long-term,” she said. She said Petrotrin continued to do air quality testing in the area.

Villafana said the company said relocating residents would be difficult for the company and she understood that but the “residents must be compensated” for the stress they underwent during the spill.  She said since the diesel spill residents have been getting a strong acidic/chemical smell in the air. She pointed to a rash on her neck and hands which she blamed on contaminants in the air.
Villafana also expressed fear for her pregnant daughter, Diane.  Diane, who is expecting a baby girl, said Petrotrin had been monitoring her and the baby and running tests at the Augustus Long Hospital. She said she was grateful for the assistance but after learning that another pregnant woman in the area lost her baby she was scared. “We are asking God that the baby be healthy and that is what comes first,” Diane said.
Joy Antoine, head, publications and production at Petrotrin, said last evening that medical check-ups were still ongoing with residents. She said the company continued to meet with residents to hear their concerns.


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