MEMBER of Parliament for Pointe-a-Pierre Errol McLeod got a rough response yesterday when he spoke during a meeting with residents living along the Guaracara River, Marabella.
The residents were affected by last week’s oil spill, and have protested several times, demanding that State-owned Petrotrin provide proper health care, medication, relocation and compensation.
Some residents wanted to know yesterday why it took McLeod a week to show up, and one warned McLeod to choose his words carefully as he sought to explain his position on whether people should be relocated.
Last Tuesday, slop oil (a combination of oil, water and sediment) from a holding tank on Petrotrin’s refinery compound flowed into the river, sickening dozens of people and leading to an evacuation of some, who have been temporarily relocated to a guest house in the area.
McLeod, who was accompanied by Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine, Petrotrin president Khalid Hassanali, and company doctor David Jackson, met with residents at Silk Cotton Road, Battoo Avenue.
He told residents there were associated risks with living close to the refinery and that residents living in a disaster zone have had to co-exist with the refinery for years.
He said relocating residents to “less risky areas” would require a great period of time and planning.
McLeod said, “For years we have co-existed with the refinery and one would expect that over the years, one would have learnt from the past, and put in place the kind of measures that would make the place as safe as possible.”
McLeod said his approach to such accidents in the industry is to investigate the cause before anyone “points fingers”.
In an attempt to explain why he was only now visiting residents, McLeod said, “I would not have come here and join in an issue before I understood Petrotrin’s response to what happened. I establish that you could not immediately deal with the issue (as) it had to happen over a period of time (and) it takes collaborative efforts.”
Residents were upset with his response with some saying, “Whole week we look for you.”
McLeod suggested to residents that a five-member committee be formed to represent those affected and to meet with Petrotrin’s corporate communications manager Gillian Friday today to discuss their demands and what can be done.