THE oil spill in the Gulf of Paria has flowed into the environmentally sensitive Aripero mangrove, a roosting area for the scarlet ibis, located between Otaheite and La Brea.
The extent and impact of the spill was shown to members of the media who were given access to the coastline from a fishing boat that left the Otaheite fishing port and travelling towards La Brea.
The oil coating the mangrove is not yet being cleaned as clean-up operations are concentrated along the shoreline, where excavators are scooping up and pouring the crude into tanks ground to the beaches.
Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine was asked about the oil reaching the wetland area, during a tour of La Brea yesterday.
He said “We will liaise with Petrotrin and get answer for you all on how they plan to treat with the mangrove.”
Ramnarine added: “A country that produces oil at some points in time you are going to have accidents, and incidents like this.
“Oil spills are not uncommon around the world. The important thing is to learn from this exercise because we will be having more exploration and production activity around Trinidad and Tobago”.
Brian Gove, one of the foreign experts contracted by Petrotrin said three more months of clean-up operations were needed.
He said: “My estimate is two weeks for the heavy cleaning and three months for the light cleaning that follows”.
Ramnarine said with nine reported oil spills in two weeks, the issues being looked at were security and maintenance of the oil and gas infrastructure.
“One of the issues is security. There are also concerns about the installation of our energy installation, not just oil installation, but natural gas installation, and power generation installation. Then there is the issue of maintenance. A lot of work has been done within the last three years to improve the facilities there.
“A lot of work is still to be done. Trinmar has been there for over 50 years. But there is clearly a need for Petrotrin to take a look at it. Not only what is happening here, but also what is happening on land”, he said.
Ramnarine said the Ministry of Energy had activated its National Oil Spill Contingency Plan, which was updated only three months ago from a plan done in 1977.
“We initially triggered the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan to Tier Two.
At Tier One, Petrotrin has the resources to handle that by itself. Tier Two is where we needed to get national resources such as Coast Guard, Air Guard etc. Tier Three is where we got international resources. Last week it was decided to trigger it to Tier Three”, said Ramnarine.
“The point was made that we have a live experience of an oil spill and certainly from this there would be a report, with recommendations that will filter into the National Oil Spill Contingency plan”, said Ramnarine.
Members of the media were told that the clean-up crews faced daily challenges of dealing with the changing tides and the mobilisation of equipment along a three-mile stretch of beach which has only one access road.
“All the resources which are available to us are being mobilised. No cost is being spared in this exercise. But it is going to be expensive”, Ramnarine said.