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300 barrels of oil washed into river

Published: 
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Clean up operations stretch to Gulf
An oil drenched Pelican floats on the water off Petrotrin’s storage facility in Pointe-a-Pierre as a clean up crew set up oil booms following a leak on Sunday. PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH

Petrotrin is now saying that 300 barrels of oil spilled in the Guaracara River from a ruptured storage tank, but fishermen are saying oil has stretched over a five-mile radius into the Gulf of Paria.

In its first statement after the spill on Sunday the State-owned company said only 20 barrels of oil had leaked from one of its storage tanks. But the Environmental Management Authority said on Monday that 20,000 gallons (a barrel contains 42 gallons) of bunker fuel had escaped.

Dozens of species of plant and marine life have been affected by the spill which was being cleaned up yesterday with dispersants and containment booms.

Fishermen said the devastation was rampant and are fearful that the latest spill will affect fish sales.

In a statement yesterday, Petrotrin said it is continuing to contain and recover the oil spilled from Tank 70.

“Aerial surveys and monitoring continued this morning alongside other clean-up and recovery activities,” Petrotrin said.

The company said “Estimates from the Incident Command Centre indicate that an estimated 300 barrels had entered the sea and tidal conditions suggest that the oil is heading in a north westerly direction.”

Petrotrin said its operations personnel as well as representatives from the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries, the Environment Management Authority and other regulatory bodies were involved in recovery efforts.

“Cognisant of our responsibility to ensure the clean-up is completed in a timely manner and with minimal impact to the environment, our clean-up crews are working around the clock and a Wildlife Rehabilitation Plan has been mobilized and implemented,” the company said.

Petrotrin also said any affected animal identified will be re-rehabilitated in established centres in Trinidad. Anyone with information are asked to contact Petrotrin at 24-hour emergency contact number 658-SAFE (7233).

Chairman of the EMA Nadra Nathai- Gyan said the Oilspill Contingency Plan has been activated and the matter was being handled by the Ministry of Energy.

Asked how much oil had spilled, Nathai-Gyan said, “It is still an estimate because as far as I am aware they have not completed the audit of how much has spilled into the sea. The majority of oil that entered into the sea has moved to the west of Pointe-a-Pierre. They have confirmed the estimated amount to be 300 barrels but we are awaiting the audited amounts.”

She said the EMA has been monitoring the issue closely to ensure that the clean-up is done in the interest of the environment.

Secretary of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea Gary Aboud said Tank 20 contained 150,000 barrels of fuel oil which contains high levels of heavy metals and are toxic contaminants.

“The tank is improperly cited near to the San Fernando General Hospital and near the shoreline.

“Today Petrotrin reported 300 barrels of oil was spilt. Tank #70 has a capacity of 150,000 barrels and our reports are that it was full. Therefore where is the balance of 149,700 barrels?” Aboud asked.

Probe ordered into incident—Khan

Energy Minister Franklin Khan said last Sunday’s oil spill into the Guaracara Rivers did not flow further past Pointe-a-Pierre into any other southern areas - like Coffee Beach or La Brea - as previous spills did.

Speaking in the Senate, he said five residents had reported feeling nauseaous after the spill and were treated at the Augustus Long Hospital.

He said the spill occurred around 2.45 pm when Tank 70 at Petrotrin sprung a leak at its base. It contained 12,853 barrels of oil.

The majority of spilled oil was contained within the refinery, but some escaped into the marine environment, he said. This was skimmed and returned to the port area via barge and dispersant materials were used to protect surrounding south western areas.

Khan said the occurrence will be investigated to find out why the containment failed and to guide future asset integrity and in-house inspection frameworks. (Gail Alexander)