Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 24th 2013 Contents A5
Tuesday, December 24, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
International oil-spill experts arrived in
T&T last night to assist in a massive clean-
up operation while state-owned Petrotrin
still struggled to stem the flow of oil into
the Gulf of Paria.
As backhoes scraped the beachfront at La
Brea yesterday, a stream of oil continued to
flow towards the shore, leaving Petrotrin and
clean-up contractor, Tiger Tank Trinidad,
unable to assess when the job might be com-
At Coffee Beach yesterday, a Petrotrin offi-
cial said the company had yet to determine
the origin of the spill, a prospect which means
they could be cleaning oil for days to come.
Speaking on condition of anonymity yes-
terday, he said: "It is hard to really give a
percentage on how much work is still to be
done because there is still a proliferation of
oil coming to shore.
"It has reduced but because it is the sea
we are going to get movement of the crude
from one point to the next.
"Since I have been here, from Thursday
to now, there has been significant improve-
ment but I won t say we have it under control.
"We have moved contaminated oil and
water and since Thursday to now and we
have moved in excess of 120 barrels."
Last Thursday, the first of five leaks was
discovered at Petrotrin Court at the Pointe-
That leak has since been capped but CEO
of the Office of Disaster Preparedness Man-
agement, Dr Stephen Ramroop, said an aerial
survey of the Gulf of Paria had shown there
was still oil in the water.
In an interview yesterday, Ramroop esti-
mated that with the assistance of US-based
Oil Spill Response Ltd, the clean-up operation
should be completed in six to eight weeks.
Ramroop added: "Yesterday a helicopter
reconnaissance saw some oil in the ocean
but not much. Most of it is on the shore
"The clean-up operation, therefore, is con-
fined to most of the coast and of course we
have most of the key stakeholders there.
"The Institute of Marine Affairs is there
and they are conducting biological and marine
testing as well as the EMA, which is doing
air-quality testing of samples."
Petrotrin has come in for heavy condem-
nation from the Oilfields Workers Trade
Union over the spills, with the union s pres-
ident general Ancel Roget saying management
had failed to monitor its leased operators and
must take blame for the environmental dis-
Contacted yesterday, Petrotrin president
Khalid Hassanali said: "I don t have any
comment to make on that. The only com-
ment I will make is that right now we are
focusing on community clean-up, investi-
gation and security."
On whether he believed the leaks were
acts of sabotage, he said the incidents needed
to be investigated first.
He referred all questions to the company s
corporate communication s manager, Gillian
Relocation plan scrapped
Yesterday, residents said several people
had been hospitalised with respiratory ill-
nesses caused by the toxic fumes but Ram-
roop said there were no plans to evacuate
Sixty-year-old Wayne James, who lives
on the beachfront, said there were initial
plans to house 25 affected families at the
La Brea Community Centre while the clean-
up was being done but many residents
refused the temporary relocation.
Asked about the residents health, Ram-
roop said: "There were certain people who
were prone to respiratory illnesses, such as
asthma, wheezing, bronchitis and most of
"They have been identified and one person
was taken to hospital with the aid of the
Petrotrin ambulance as well as the regional
health authority and they have been treated."
As a precaution, Petrotrin told residents
not to ignite any flames and the company
has been providing them with three daily
Adding that they were executing good
corporate social responsibility, the official
said Tiger Tanks Trinidad was mandated
to employ people from the area to assist in
No police enquiries
Despite Prime Minister Kamla Persad-
Bissessar suggesting that Petrotrin was inves-
tigating whether the leaks were acts of sab-
otage, no reports have been made to the
Assistant Commissioner of Police for
southern and south western division Donald
Denoon said no reports were made to any
of the stations in the districts where the leaks
The Government and international oil spill
experts will be working through the Christmas
holidays to clean up the oil spill in La Brea and
other areas of the southern peninsula.
Four international specialists and two cargo
planes filled with equipment arrived yesterday to
assist with the clean-up of five oil spills last week
in that area.
Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine made the
announcement yesterday during a post-Cabinet
press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister,
He said he would meet with the experts today
and work would begin immediately.
Ramnarine said members of the company, Oil
Spill Response, will be assisting with the clean-
up in the La Brea area and other parts of the
Two of the experts are from the United States
and two are from the United Kingdom.
He said the equipment, which included skim-
mers and booms, would be taken by a convoy of
trucks to the Point Fortin and La Brea communities
for eventual use in the beach clean-up.
Booms are used to prevent spills from spreading
to other areas and skimmers trap oil on the surface
of the ocean.
Ramnarine said the exercise, previously esti-
mated to take a month to complete, may now
take less time due to the foreign expertise.
He also revealed that a committee, chaired by
Environment Minister Ganga Singh, and including
National Security Minister Gary Griffith and him-
self had been established to oversee clean-up
activities on the peninsula and launch an inde-
pendent investigation into the root cause of the
spills. He said he expected a preliminary report
on the spills by the end of next month.
Security for energy sector
Ramnarine said Cabinet also had discussed
yesterday the security arrangements of the energy
sector and noted its vulnerability.
"The Cabinet recognises the vital importance
of the energy sector to the economy of T&T and
we took note of the possible vulnerability of key
assets, not just oil assets but transportation and
production assets which are located throughout
He said Griffith was asked to brief Cabinet
next week on the current state of security arrange-
ments for the energy sector and a report would
subsequently be presented to the Cabinet with
recommendations on how security could be
A release yesterday from the Office of the Prime
Minister announced that it was decided at yes-
terday s meeting of the National Security Council
(NSC) to increase security around installations
in the energy sector, both on land and at sea.
"The NSC got an update on the oil spill and
while an investigation is being undertaken by
Petrotrin, Government has decided to protect its
facilities within the energy sector.
"Stricter security measures will be in place at
all energy installations, and access won t be as
easy as before," the release said.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is
expected to tour the areas affected by the oil spill
Residents in the affected areas have been warned
by Petrotrin officials not to cook, as lighting
flames could result in explosions.
Ramnarine said the issue of compensation for
residents was also still being discussed but
Petrotrin had already discussed a $2,000-per-
day compensation plan for fishermen.
for foreign experts
Petrotrin still can't find leak source
Crews fight to
stem spill flow
Petrotrin employees continue clean-up
operations along Queen's Beach, La
Brea, yesterday. PHOTO: TONY HOWELL
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