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Declare South peninsula a disaster zone

Fishing community calls on President to use his powers:

By Kim Boodram

THE fishing community has called on President Anthony Carmona to take control of the Petrotrin oil spills that have besieged parts of the sou­thern peninsula and which they said will rob them of their livelihood in the foreseeable future.

Businessman Gary Aboud, of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS), said yesterday it was time for the President to step in under the Disaster Measures Act of 1978 and declare La Brea and other areas affected by the oil spill a disaster zone.

Chapter 16:50 of the act states: (8) (1) “Within three days of the making of the Proclamation, the President shall deli­ver to the Speaker for presentation to the House of Representatives a statement setting out the specific grounds on which the decision to declare the existence of a disaster was based and debate shall take place on this statement as soon as practicable, but in any event not later than fifteen days from the date of the Proclamation.”

(2) The Proclamation shall, unless pre­viously revoked, remain in force for fifteen days.”

Aboud was speaking at a news conference yesterday at Woodford Square, Port of Spain, where representatives from 12 different national fishing associations had also gathered to call for Carmona’s help.

The first of 11 known oil spills in various Petrotrin-owned, operated and partner-leased fields took place on December 17. A leak was then discovered in the Number 10 Sea Line on the company’s Riser Platform, during oil-fuel loading operations at the Pointe-a-Pierre port. 

The cause, according to State-owned Petrotrin, was a failed chain support that had not been found to be defective during previous routine inspections.

The company claimed this week that “sabotage” was behind a series of apparent equipment failures at different fields, some in remote locations.

The hardest-hit community following the initial spill has so far been La Brea, but this week, communities and fisherfolk in Otaheite, Claxton Bay and Brickfield have come out and said their fishing grounds and the surrounding mangroves have been severely compromised by the presence of oil.

FFOS and the fisherfolk yesterday expressed doubt over claims of sabotage, saying they felt at this point, it was being used as a cover for poor management of Petrotrin’s fields and equipment.

For the fishing community and con­servationists, the spills are no surprise.

Aboud said FFOS, in 2003, delivered a management plan to Petrotrin for abandoned equipment leaking oil in thousands of old fields around the southern peninsula and for operational fields as well, but it was ignored.

Aboud and other conservationists have also called on Petrotrin to declare all the materials being used to clean up the spills.

FFOS has challenged claims by Petrotrin that the materials are environmentally friendly, including the use of a peat-moss-based absorbent in the water and onshore.

“In the water, peat-moss is one of the worst things to use,” Aboud said. 

“It binds to the oil and sinks to the ocean floor where it creates a sludge that destroys life.”

Aboud said the company should be using organic mop-up methods, utilising bacteria that “eat” oil and die off afterwards.

“What they are doing is making the oil invisible to the eye, that’s not cleaning up,” Aboud said.

Conservationists have called for the names of the chemicals being used, claiming some have been banned in Europe for their long-term effects on animal and human health.

Some chemicals like an oil clean-up material called Corexit and all similar chemical compounds used for this purpose have been labelled as highly carcinogenic, they said.

 
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