FLASHBACK, January 15: Tenesha Modeste with her five-year-old son Israel Regis of Coffee Beach, La Brea, who was told by his teacher not to return to school until a rash on his face is healed. —Photo: TREVOR WATSON

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MP: Relocate them

‘La Brea residents living in hell...’

By Carolyn Kissoon carolyn.kissoon@trinidadexpress.com

The 150-plus residents affected by the major oil spill in the southwestern coastline were treated with gross disrespect and contempt.

This is according to People’s National Movement MP for La Brea, Fitzgerald Jeffrey.

Speaking at a press conference at his constituency office in La Brea yesterday, Jeffrey renewed his call for the affected residents to be relocated.

He identified unoccupied housing units at Hubertstown, La Fortune and Southern Gardens, where residents could be relocated.

“The hydrocarbon scent was unbearable and the fact that the residents were advised not to cook or light matches should indicate the living hell those coastal residents had to undergo,” he said.

Calling on President Anthony Carmona to declare the coastline at La Brea a disaster zone, Jeffrey said there was an urgent need for an independent enquiry into the oil spills and the members should be selected by Carmona.

Jeffrey said he was also concerned about the coastal environment in the south-western peninsula, in particular between Otaheite to La Brea.

“This oil spill is  due to  high class carelessness and gross  incompetence. It is indeed ironic that the place that gave birth to this important resource should be a victim of poor management,” he said.

Jeffrey claimed residents were led to believe the monitoring device used by Petrotrin was to determine the level of toxicity in the atmosphere, when in fact it was to determine the oxygen content in the air and flammability of the air. “I am advised those devices cannot determine the amount of hydrogen sulfide and other toxic gases in  the air,” he said.

Jeffrey said he was concerned that of the 8,000 barrels of oil leaked into the sea, only 4,000 barrels were retrieved by Petrotrin.

“Where did the other 4,000 barrels go? The majority went to the sea floor and some deposited in the mangroves in the Otaheite-Rousillac area. Most mangrove roots in that area are  still covered in Bunker C fuel. The  great heat of the  Bunker C fuel tends to destroy the mangroves,” he said.

He said the toxic substance had implications for marine life and consumers of fish and crab.

Another major concern, Jeffrey said, was the use of the dispersant Corexit 9500.  

“The admission by Petrotrin to have used the dispersant Corexit 9500  in its quest to bring the oil spill under control, worry not only the residents who live in the coastal zone but also many residents of La Brea; and I guess many in the national and international community. The residents of the La Brea coastal environment were never informed of the use of Corexit 9500,” he said.

Jeffrey said residents were never informed that Corexit 9500 was banned by 19 countries in Europe including the United Kingdom and Sweden because of its high level of toxicity. 

Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine has denied that Corexit  was banned.

Jeffrey said Petrotrin and its agents failed to comply with the conditions contained in the National  Oil Spill Contingency Plan—a plan sanctioned by the Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs (MEEA).

He said, “The spread of the Corexit 9500 near the shore seemed to be a desperate act. They panicked when they saw the large spread and thickness of the spill. Petrotrin began to take serious action, the oil had already hugged the coastline and painted the fragile  roots of the mangrove.”

Jeffrey said the chemical posed serious implications for all marine organisms that traverse the sea floor.

“I will like to advise all consumers of fish to be on high alert because a lot of the fishes in our waters may contain highly toxic chemicals,” he said.

Jeffrey said residents of Point Sable, Point D’or, Coffee Village, Bay Beach and Industry Lane were still falling ill. He said research in the communities revealed that residents were experiencing prolonged dizziness (40 of them), headaches (40), ear, nose and throat irritations (56), persistent coughing, cold and fever (29), chest pains (34), diarrhoea (26), vomiting, stomach pains (16), menstrual cycle disruption (11).

He questioned whether the 160 crab catchers affected by the oil spill in the mangrove would be compensated and who would foot the bill for residents who experience medical problems following the oil clean-up. 

Jeffrey also questioned whether self-employed persons in the affected communities would be compensated for their losses.

 
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