SPRInkling OIL ABSORBENT: A Petrotrin contractor sprinkles an organic oil absorbent along the shoreline of Coffee Beach in La Brea following Tuesday’s oil spill. —Photo: DAVE PERSAD

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EMA: Evacuate children, babies, pregnant women

La Brea oil spill

By Carolyn Kissoon carolyn.kissoon@trinidadexpress.com

The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) yesterday “strongly” urged Petrotrin  to secure and temporarily evacuate the impacted area of the oil spill in La Brea, especially young children, babies and pregnant women.

They also urged the company to ensure all sensitive assets in the area are accounted for and secured. 

Residents were not evacuated but the young and elderly affected by toxic smell emanating from the oil slick along the south western peninsula were treated at the Point Fortin District Hospital yesterday. The residents living along the shoreline are considering relocation until clean-up operations are completed, the Express understands.

Petrotrin officials returned to Queens Beach also known as Coffee Beach, La Brea, yesterday accompanied by three backhoes and two ambulances. EMA personnel were also present.

Fisherman Ashram Rampersad said a baby boy suffered an asthma attack and was taken to hospital for treatment. “And about 15 elderly people had to be taken away by ambulance because the scent is so strong. They had to get urgent medical treatment,” he said.

Rampersad said families were moving to relatives’ homes until the clean-up is completed.

“The contractor came in this morning with backhoes to clear the oil and debris. But more oil is coming up and it seems as though they can’t handle it. The fishermen in this area are greatly affected by this because we cannot go out to work. Our boats are stained with oil and we cannot move them,” he said.

President of the La Brea Fisherfolk Association, Alvin La Borde, said fishermen were demanding compensation for days they were unable to work. “These fishermen cannot go out to work. They need to buy things for their families for Christmas. They would not be able to leave until this oil is cleared,” he said.  La Borde said fishermen lost nets and ropes used to secure their boats.

The EMA stated in the release that approximately one mile of thick, black oil was observed along the shore. “Several fishing boats and fishing gear was impacted, along with the nearby mangrove. Some homes were also minimally impacted. A strong stench was also present as a result of the spillage,” the release stated.

The EMA emergency response team was instrumental in providing guidance to Petrotrin in initiating the clean-up efforts,” the release added.

“At present the source of the spillage could not be ascertained and further aerial investigation is being initiated to aid in uncovering the cause of this incident,” the EMA said.

 The EMA will continue to provide technical assistance and guidance as per necessary, the organisation stated.

“The EMA’s immediate concern is the protection of life and the environment and all measures will be taken to ensure the situation is contained. The EMA will continue to closely monitor clean-up efforts and ensure that environmental best practices are carried out.”

The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM), Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs (MEEA), and the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA) are also assessing the situation. “Once the source of the spillage is determined, the EMA will be assessing the situation from a legal and compliance perspective to ascertain whether there is any breach in environmental legislation,” the EMA stated. 

The EMA’s acting Managing Director,  Gayatri Badri Maharaj said human and environmental impacts will be treated with priority and that a comprehensive investigation and continuous monitoring will be conducted by the EMA to ensure that any threat to the ecology within the affected area is contained, and that the clean-up activities are efficiently managed.

 
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