Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 24th 2015 Contents Where is the report of the
Assessment Task Force
(NEATF) that was promised by
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-
Bissessar in January, 2014 to
address the environmental impact
of the December 2013 Petrotrin
oil spill that devastated Trinidad s
South West Peninsula?
Environmental advocacy group
Fishermen and Friends of the Sea
(FFOS) put in a Freedom of
Information Act request for a
copy of the report on August 14,
On July 10, 2015, almost a year
later, the Permanent Secretary of
the Office of the Prime Minister
replied to FFOS that the request
for the report was denied.
The Office of the Prime Minis-
ter explained by a template letter,
with tick-boxes, that the NEATF
report received a Certificate of
Exemption because it is "a docu-
ment which has been considered
by Cabinet and which is related
to an issue that is or has been
This is not an adequate
response from a transparent,
democratic government regarding
the impact of what is T&T s
most destructive environmental
disaster. Is it a cover-up by the
State of a State owned company
caused disaster? Or is it that the
report was never completed?
One of the people asking why
the Prime Minister s promise is
not being kept is Wayne Henry, a
50-something year-old fisherman
of La Brea.
Henry has lived and fished
there all his life. He told me:
"Since the first set of oil spill we
have been getting fish kills. Por-
poise have washed up dead. EMA
have come here. They don t give
us any information. People from
the university came here but
when we called them they never
told us anything."
The lack of information breeds
distrust. Henry said: "I don t
know what it is that they are
trying to hide."
Henry reports that, in the
space of one week, six dead peli-
cans were found on Coffee
Beach, La Brea. This is the beach
where currents carried huge
amounts of oil during the spill. A
dead fish hawk, a dolphin and
thousands of fish also washed up
during the week. Henry thinks
that it has to do with recent
heavy rains that flushed out the
oil-spilled, dispersant treated
Another resident, an elderly
gentleman, told me that he
believes that the fish and animal
kills are caused by polluting
industries in Point Lisas. He
explains that currents carry the
dead fish to Coffee beach.
A third local says that Coffee
beach has always suffered from
dead fish washing up onshore.
He believes that it is caused by
up-current fisher folk discarding
A fourth resident fisher thinks
it is a combination of all of the
He says that sometimes the
fish are alive but jerking and
flopping about, gasping for air,
when they are suffering from
some kind of toxic effect. Other
times they are dead before they
hit the shore in which case he
thinks they were discarded
Is it caused by the oil spill or
not? They don t know. They have
little education and all they can
do is make a calculated guess.
The true experts are the mem-
bers of the National Environmen-
tal Assessment Task Force
They, however, remain silent.
Those who know the most say
Walking around the village at
Coffee Beach residents point out
discards of the oil spill that was
never removed. Behind and
underneath one house was a
bagasse-type material that was
used to soak up crude oil. The
clean-up effort was never
I took a look at nearby man-
groves. Orange booms still lit-
tered the mangrove. These were
placed there to prevent oil from
penetrating the delicate mangrove
forest. It looks like once media
attention was diverted from the
spill Petrotrin and the agencies
responsible for the clean-up
washed their hands of the whole
event, as if it never happened.
Residents mentioned that a few
young people had become very ill
since the oil spill. They were not
sure if the oil spill was to blame.
Trust is a two-way street. The
residents, and this columnist, do
not trust the authorities or
Petrotrin with regard to the
events that led up to the oil spill
or the clean up event that took
It is certain that no proper
environmental assessment or
remediation can have taken place
without the NEATF report.
I personally risked my health
by reporting on the oil spill at a
time when Petrotrin was doing
everything in its power to deny
the extent of the oil spill. Hun-
dreds of others did much more
than I did and exposed them-
selves to harmful toxins.
Communities and ecosystems
were assaulted and insulted by
the spill. It is time to regain our
trust by presenting the completed
NEATF report so that the experts
can assure us that communities
and ecosystems are not at risk
and that proper remediation is
taking place. Is a promise a
promise? Or is a promise broken?
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, August 24, 2015
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WHERE IS THE OIL SPILL REPORT?
Dead fish which were
photographed on August 8
at the Carrot Shed and
Point Sable beach La Brea.
PHOTO COURTESY FFOS
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