EIGHT months after an oil spill in La Brea which took State-owned Petrotrin months to clean, residents continue to complain of its effects on their health.
Residents of Coffee Beach said if they still are experiencing hair loss, rashes, and eye irritations then the area may not be safe for them to live.
“The environment is not healthy at all. It is unfair these things are happening through no fault of our own. The company needs to pay our medical bills and compensate us and most of all, make the place safe to live,” said resident Alana Charles.
Charles, 36, a mother of two, had left the area for several months but returned on Thursday for a few hours. She said within that time, her skin developed bumps and her hair started to itch.
Tenesha Modeste, 27, a mother of one, who still lives in Coffee Beach, said her allergies seemed to have worsened since the spill, which originated at Petrotrin’s Pointe-a-Pierre refinery and dumped an estimated 7,500 barrels of fuel oil into the Gulf of Paria.
“It’s about a month now my hair has been falling off. And now my son’s hair is falling off too. The skin problem started around the time of the fish kill. After that I started to get a lot of burning in my eyes and lately, in my throat. My eye lashes fell off. My skin is swelling. This is not right, this is my home,” said Modeste.
She said she has been prescribed Piriton and Prednisolone tablets by doctors for the allergies, and petroleum jelly for the skin irritation.
“On Monday I ended up over-dosing myself. The tablet is supposed to be a day, but I took two within two hours because my skin felt like it was on fire, like if I got burned. And I got some relief after that”, she said.
Modeste said she and her son live on the beach front, approximately 4.5 metres from the shore.
“We do not bathe in the sea. We are allergic to sea foods so I do not eat any fish, shrimp, crab or anything from here. It must be the fumes that causing this,” Modeste said.
“We are asking for urgent medical attention,” she said.
Modeste said she wished her son, a pupil of La Brea Roman Catholic School, would feel better before he re-entered school at the opening of the new school term.
She believes that their health would improve if they are relocated by Petrotrin.
“A doctor from the Point Fortin hospital told me that I need to move out from here to get better. She said these things will never leave me unless I move out. I had allergies from before but now they are worse”, said Modeste. “And I do not want to them to move me into the community centre because the facilities at there centre are terrible. It is not safe, the toilets are not wholesome, and part of the centre is leaking”.
Charles said she has been staying at a friend’s house in Caratal, Gasparillo, but the accommodations are temporary. Charles, who is self-employed as a geriatric worker, said she has not had steady work since she left La Brea.
She said: “I left the area for a little while and my skin and hair problems cleared up. But I came back last Thursday and spent a few hours in Coffee Beach, La Brea and the bumps started coming back, and my head got worse. We need some kind of compensation because every time I see the dermatologist I get a prescription and it’s my money I am using”.
“I would like to go back to my home. I am not working and I need money to support myself. The company should start paying my medical bills until we get better. And we need compensation for this since I cannot work”, said Charles.