OWTU joins call for new homes for La Brea residents

By Susan Mohammed

Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) president general Ancel Roget says State housing should be afforded to residents in La Brea who want to be relocated because they say they continue to suffer the effects of an oil spill.

 Residents who spoke with TV6 News and the Express on Friday called for the relocation as oil company Petrotrin said temporary alternative accommodation was offered at the La Brea Community Centre.

Those residents are now asking the government to relocate them and Roget is supporting the call.

“We are saying that the government through the Ministry of Housing, through the Minister of Housing, they politic when it comes to the issue of HDC houses and, therefore, if there is the capacity despite what they say to ensure that every resident is afforded a home afforded by the HDC and so on ... we are putting our weight behind that,” Roget said.

Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal could not be reached for comment yesterday.

La Brea residents had said the community centre will not afford families privacy.

Roget said the affected residents “did nothing to deserve” what happened in La Brea and must be treated with respect.

“They were not living in a community centre prior to that oil spill and, therefore, they ought not to be housed in any community centre but they ought to be housed in proper and descent and respectable housing,” Roget said.

But one La Brea resident, Avianne Ranking, said yesterday she did not want to be relocated.

“I really don’t want to leave. I getting nice sea breeze here, you understand, is just once in a blue moon this does happen,” Ranking said.

She called, however, for compensation for all the people in the community.

Ranking further said while the fumes from the oil were “slowing down” the clean-up, which she participated in, was going “slow, slow, slow”.

The Energy Ministry said on Friday, that the clean-up at Coffee Beach in La Brea is 80-90 per cent complete. Roget challenged the findings of a preliminary report from the Institute of Marine Affairs on the spill.

The ministry said evidence emerging from that preliminary report indicates that the oil sample retrieved from the spill, which came ashore at La Brea is a “Bunker C type oil”, a product of the crude oil refining process.

This suggests that the source of the La Brea spill is unlikely to have been discharged from an oil well or a crude oil pipeline, it added. 

The ministry said the National Oil Spill Contingency Incident Command Team is currently investigating the possible sources of all reported oil spills.

The ministry further said the team  is expecting the results early this week on trajectory modelling work currently being conducted by Environmental Sciences Ltd for a more definitive position on the origin of the oil spills.

The Energy Ministry said it is awaiting the IMA’s final report.

Roget claimed Petrotrin led the IMA in its investigation.

“And we are saying that it’s a conspiracy and therefore if you lead someone in an area where you want them to produce a particular outcome then that’s what will be produced,” Roget said.

Meanwhile an expert  who worked in clean-up operations in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill where over 200 million gallons of crude oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico three years ago, has been contracted by a local company conducting clean up operations in the La Brea oil spill. 

Greg Height, of Houston, Texas, USA, began work with Tiger Tanks Trinidad Unlimited, a contracting company, which is leading efforts in restoring the environment in the wake of the oil spill.  

Height, on duty in La Brea yesterday, said: “There’a a lot of oil and it’s a big mess. From what I’ve seen it’s pretty messy.” 

Height said he could not assess how long it would take to clean up the oil spill but said, “there was a lot of work still to be done.” 

In a release on Friday from Petrotrin’s manager of corporate communications Gillian Friday the company said: “To date, preliminary laboratory tests conducted on samples of oil taken from the spill in the La Brea area suggest that this spill did not originate from Riser Platform 5, from Platform 17 in the Point Fortin Marine Operations or from the Trinity-operated Brighton Marine field.  The company has sent samples, including those from La Brea and Pointe-a-Pierre, to the USA for full identification and fingerprinting.  Petrotrin’s management continues to engage all available resources in the clean-up activities within the affected areas to ensure minimal adverse effects to the communities and the environment.” 

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