CLEAN-UP CONCERN: A La Brea fisherman looks on as workmen from Tiger Tanks Ltd continue the clean-up operation at Queen’s Beach, La Brea yesterday. —Photo: DEXTER PHILIP

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‘It’s bunker fuel’

IMA finds ‘missing link’...

By Anna Ramdass anna.ramdass@trinidadexpress.com

Thousands of barrels of bunker fuel were somehow released from Petrotrin’s storage facilities in Pointe-a-Pierre which resulted in the entire South coast of the country being polluted, a report compiled by the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA) has stated.

The IMA conducted an investigation and fingerprinting analysis of the oil spills that  impacted the Gulf of Paria during the past week and found that it was not crude oil but bunker fuel which is mainly used on ships and refineries.

A Government source told the Express yesterday that the “missing link” has been found as to what type of substance was polluting the waters and where it came from.

The mystery now, said the source, is how thousands of barrels of bunker fuel found its way into the oceans and who or what caused this.

The source said sabotage was still likely in the case of Rancho Quemado where special tools were required to open the valves.

“The source of this spill has been scientifically established beyond doubt and by sampling it is the same fuel in Granville, La Brea, Carrat Shed  and at Pointe-a-Pierre,” said the source.

“The probe will have to take place with respect to the land base allegations of sabotage because it required specialist equipment to open the valves,” the source added.

“We have established the fingerprint of the oil spill fuel but we have not established how the oil came to spill, that is a matter which will have to be independently investigated,” said the source.

Cabinet on Thursday appointed Minister of the Environment and Water Resources Ganga Singh as chairman of a committee along with Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine and National Security Minister Gary Griffith to oversee an investigation into the oil spill.

A technical committee was established comprising Prof John Agard, Andrew Jupiter, Dr Allan Bachan, head of the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) and Dr Indar Ramnarine, chairman of the Institute of Marine Affairs.

The IMA team, which conducted the scientific analysis on the spill samples was led by Darryl Banjoo and comprised members Wendy Nelson, Shane Ramsammy, Kyle Williams and Malini Ramlal.

The Express obtained a copy of the preliminary report which stated that the results of the fingerprinting analysis indicate a strong resemblance between the samples of oil found at La Brea and Granville and the oil at the spill site at Petrotrin Pointe-a-Pierre which suggest a link between these samples.

IMA chairman Dr Indar Ramnarine told the Express that bunker fuel was crude oil minus gasoline and kerosene. 

He said this type of fuel will have the same negative impact on the environment as crude oil.

Ramnarine said sea currents would have pushed the fuel from Pointe-a-Pierre to La Brea and Cedros affecting the coast.

The Rancho Quemado case, he said, might be crude oil as it was land based where the valves were deliberately opened.

He said a team from the IMA on Friday, will do a detailed survey of the coastline from Chatham to Pointe-a- Pierre and will study the impact of the spill on the marine life including plants such as sea grass and mangrove.

Ramnarine said a forensic analysis will be required to determine whether the spillage from Petrotrin’s storage facilities was deliberate or carelessness. 

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