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Authorities probe Chaguaramas oil spill

Published: 
Monday, October 16, 2017
Beach goers look at the black oily substance which could be seen along the north-western shoreline yesterday.

Concern has been expressed that action has not been taken quickly enough to contain an oil spill which has been spreading across Trinidad’s north-western coast since early yesterday.

“If this was in the water since morning, you mean to say they have not put out information by now warning people about it?”asked one beach goer as he looked at the thick black oily substance coating the water.

Up to late yesterday, there was no confirmation of whether the substance was actually oil, or information on where it originated from. The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) advised in a media release that the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM), Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA), Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries (MEEI) and the Maritime Services Division (MSD) had all been notified.

A team despatched to investigate the spill with the assistance of the Air Guard confirmed that the black oily substance had been seen between Alcoa and Five Islands and was concentrated within Williams Bay and along the Boardwalk in Chaguaramas. Streaks of the oily sheen were reported near Harts Cut and the Five Islands, but nothing was observed further west of the Five Islands.

While investigations are continuing to identify the potential source of the oily substance, the EMA appealed for people with information to come forward.

The Maritime Services Division has advised all marine craft to be aware of the oily substance in the water and to report the extent of the spill and any information about who might be responsible. The public can provide information by calling 680-9588 or email via [email protected].

Kamal Seepaul, of Trinclean, who visited Harts Cut Bay to view the damage, expressed shock as he surveyed the oil which had washed ashore. He said his company was willing to assist in the clean up.

Officials later confirmed that Kaizen Environmental Services had been appointed by the Energy Ministry to do an assessment today. They said in the absence of anyone coming forward to accept responsibility, tests will be done to determine the type and quality of the oil with a view to identify the supplier and locate the vessel transporting the substance.

Secretary of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) Gary Aboud said he got a call around 1.15 am yesterday about a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Paria and visited the area at around 6 am.

“Thick black oil spreading along the southern side of the entire north-western peninsula of Trinidad in the vicinity of Five Islands, Carrera Island, Constrat Island and Gaspree Island,” he said in a video sent to local media.

“The area covered in oil appears to be much larger than the city of Port of Spain.”

Aboud warned that the damage would be greater as rising tides would thin the the oily substance and spread it over a wider area. He called on Parliament to pass legislation that will command a full emergency investigative authority to inspect every single vessel, tanker, pipeline, oil terminal refinery, or tank farm suspected.

“Every year the Chaguaramas area suffers from massive oil spills and no one has ever been prosecuted or fined,” he said.