CLEANing UP: A Petrotrin contractor sprinkles an organic oil absorbent on the affected area of the oil spill during Thursday’s clean-up exercise at Coffee Beach, La Brea. —Photo: DAVE PERSAD

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Oil spill spreads in South waters

By Carolyn Kissoon carolyn.kissoon@trinidadexpress.com

The discoloured oil-stained waters remained along the southern peninsula continued yesterday, spreading to parts of Granville and Chatham beaches.

Families living along the coastline complained of headaches and nausea because of the high scent emanating from the oil.

Naaila Ali, 27, said she was concerned about the health of her two young daughters—ages four and five. “I heard that there was oil in Granville around 7 a.m. today. The tide is going down now so the shoreline is covered in oil. The smell is making my children upset and they are not feeling well,” she said.

Petrotrin officials visited areas in Granville and Chatham to make an assessment.

As contractors continued a clean-up exercise in parts of La Brea yesterday, residents complained they were not being treated fairly.

The residents were informed they would be employed by the contractors engaged by Petrotrin, as part of the clean-up operations. “We were told that we would be paid $40 an hour to work on the clean-up exercise, but now they telling us they will give us $35 an hour. We need to know where we stand,” a resident shouted.

Petrotrin officials were contacted and residents were allowed to raise their concerns.

Families living along the coastline were advised against lighting fires in the area, because of the toxic smell.

The families said they were unable to cook meals in the past two days.

The residents, some 15 families, were supplied with food and hampers yesterday. The hampers were distributed by councillors Gerard Debisette and Chanardaye Ramadharsingh and were sponsored by the Trinidad Generation Unlimited (TGU) power plant in La Brea.

Debisette, councillor for La Brea, said residents were advised against opened flames as a precautionary measure. 

“This is because of the high scent in the air but the mop up is continuing and is expected to be completed in the next 24-48 hours,” he said.

Debisette said residents were not evacuated from their homes but the La Brea Community Centre was prepared to house the residents in case of emergency.

He said children and elderly people complaining of feeling unwell were taken by ambulance for medical treatment.

A team of officers attached to the La Brea Police Station and coast guard officers were on duty, as workers mopped up the thick, black oil.

President of the La Brea Fisherfolk Association, Alvin La Borde, said residents and fishermen were pleased with the oil company’s quick response. He said the fishermen’s only concern was how long they would have to wait before they are allowed to leave the shore.

Fisherman Inshan Hosein said fishermen were unable to take their boats out at sea because of the black oil. But he was pleased to learn they may be compensated for their lost time. “I heard we will be compensated because we are losing so much work, especially around this time of the year. I hope it really happens,” he said.

Minister of the People Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh said the Government had responded to the oil spill. 

“We have a disaster response team, we sent people to be part of the co-ordinating team. I was informed by the MP for La Brea about the problem and I indicated that whatever assistance he needed from the Ministry of the People we will stand with him and people of La Brea as we have always done,” he said.

Ramadharsingh, who was speaking at a hamper-distribution function in Preysal on Thursday, said social  and psychological support will be given to the affected residents.

“In these disasters people are really mortified and they tend to be in a bit of shock. I don’t know what the extent of the impact is but we will evaluate and assess and give whatever support or recommendations for other ministries to intervene. I am hearing good things the way the Ministry of Energy and Petrotrin in helping to contain this small disaster,” he said.

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