Monday, January 22, 2018

Petrotrin facing court

Group threatens legal action over seismic bombing:


‘TOXIC’: Fishermen and Friends of the Sea secretary Gary Aboud points yesterday to a photograph of himself with handfuls of black, oily sludge picked up last Saturday off the sea bed in La Brea. Aboud and local fisherman affected by a series of spills that started last December are calling for testing of the substance, which they claim is a toxic mixture of chemical oil cleaners. —Photo: MICHEAL BRUCE

Mark Fraser

FISHERMEN and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) could drag State-owned oil company Petrotrin into the High Court in its bid to regulate seismic testing in local waters, the activist group’s secretary, Gary Aboud, said yesterday.

“We don’t want to but if we have to, we will,” Aboud said at a press conference in Woodford Square, Port of Spain yesterday, where FFOS continued to call for mitigation of an “apocalypse” in the fishing industry — the most recent “plague” being a series of oil spills stemming from Petrotrin’s platforms and loading dock in Pointe-a-Pierre.

Aboud and members of FFOS last Saturday gathered in fishing vessels in the Gulf of Paria in an attempt to stop a seismic testing ship from performing. 

One of a pair of seismic vessels, the Sanco Star, was run off for some time by the fishermen, most of whom were from the Southern Peninsula and say they are devastated by the spills.

The group said yesterday it feels that its voice is not being heard and the court may be the next stop.

“We will, if we have to, look to go through the court to make it mandatory for the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) to require an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), for seismic testing,” Aboud said.

He said the FFOS was not looking to stop testing altogether but to regulate it, as is done in most foreign countries.

The group is also calling for independent analyses to be done on the sea water and sea bed off parts of the Southern coastline, including hard-hit La Brea, where Petrotrin employed the use of the chemical oil-clean-up agent, Corexit 9500.

Following a dive off La Brea last Saturday, where Aboud and others surfaced with handfuls of an oily, gluey black substance that was lying on the sea floor, the group is demanding that proper tests be done to determine whether the sludge is a “toxic” mix of Corexit, oil and other chemicals used in the clean up.

The Express was present during this dive and witnessed Aboud bringing the substance to the surface, off the coast of Coffee Beach in La Brea.

Corexit and other chemical compounds like it are banned in some countries for its possible link to a host of diseases, including cancer.

“What we found on the sea floor appears to be a mix of Corexit as it is known to appear after being used to sink oil from the sea surface,” Aboud said.

“It forms a thick blob that sits for years on the sea floor and smothers and poisons it. It essentially destroys the properties of the sea floor that makes it a source of life for marine animals. Other results that include poisoning but not death of some sea creatures is also possible, making it possible that contaminated fish can reach people’s homes.”

Aboud said he developed a skin condition following the dive, including blisters on his head that have never appeared before.

“I don’t believe that is a coincidence,” he said.

Fishermen from North Trinidad also yesterday claimed that they have encountered a fast-moving oil-slick ‘down the islands’, in the vicinity of Gasparee, a popular island home and tourist draw.

They said they did not believe claims of sabotage by Petrotrin, saying they believe it is “standard practice” for such companies to attempt to cover up their liability.