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Petrotrin pays out $12m to fisherfolk

...but oil spill not fully cleared

By Carolyn Kissoon and Kim Boodram

STATE-owned oil and gas producer Petrotrin has to date coughed up about $12 million in compensation to fisherfolk in the southern peninsula, following a series of oil spills from December last year.

The fisherfolk have been compensated to the tune of $1,200 per day, in the wake of a series of oil spills in the Gulf of Paria that began on December 18 and left parts of the southern coast, especially La Brea and Otaheite, slick with crude and fuel oil.

The Express was told yesterday that clean-up in the affected areas had gone “very well” and experts attached to the operations had declared the sites safe for re-entry by fisherfolk.

Asked whether the company had been in touch with the Environmental Ma­nagement Authority (EMA) on the matter, Hassanali said:

“That is correct. We are waiting for the EMA to so authorise.”

The company’s public relations department had yesterday confirmed the sum spent on compensation so far had reached the vicinity of $12 million.

Contacted yesterday, EMA chairman Dr Allan Bachan said the authority was at this time bound to be guided by the research undertaken by the State-appointed National Environ-

mental Assessment Task Force (NEATF).

“We can’t make a pronouncement unless we have the data to substantiate that request,” Bachan said.

The Task Force was appointed in February by Envi­ronment and Water Re­sources Minister Ganga Singh, with its first order of business to assess and report on the spills.

Bachan said the NEATF’s “study plan” has already been put in place but could not say when the EMA might be able to grant Petrotrin’s wish.

President of the La Brea Fisherfolk Association Alvin La Borde said yesterday fishermen were not prepared to return to sea until they are given the green light from the EMA.

Fear of contamination has also kept most of those who harvest oysters and crabs out of the Aripero mangrove in Otaheite where clean-up exercises are reportedly still taking place.

La Borde said however fisherfolk were satisfied with the compensation so far.

He said 28 fishing vessels contaminated by oil borne on waters off the southern coast have been cleaned up by a contractor hired by Petrotrin.

“We are satisfied with the chemical used to wash the boats,” La Borde said.

“The boats were cleaned and prepared to return to sea when we are given the all clear.”

La Borde said fishermen were still concerned that the dispersant used to remove oil from the water’s surface may have contaminated marine life and the sea bed.

“We have to be certain before we go out to sea. We don’t want to sell people contaminated fish,” La Borde said.

“I am in contact with the fishermen and they are eager to go back to work. But we just want to make sure the water and marine life are safe.”

Petrotrin and EMA officials have continued to car­ry out water quality testing in the affected areas, and clean-up exercises at Station Beach, Ca­rat Shed Beach and Point Sable Beach are said to have been completed. 

However, work is ongoing at the Aripero mangrove where oil stains are still visible on the roots of the trees and other areas along the river.

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