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Wednesday, January 1, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
The oil spill clean-up at La Brea hit a snag
yesterday, after Coffee Street residents blocked
access to the beach to protest Petrotrin s handling
of the environmental disaster.
"We did not ask for this. We did not ask for oil
on our doorstep," 33-year-old Virgil Gilbert said
as parents and children raised placards during the
demonstration, saying the Government was fooling
the nation about the state of their community.
They were also critical of Prime Minister Kamla
Persad-Bissessar s statement that the oil spill was
not as drastic as was portrayed in the media.
"We are saying enough is enough, because it
has been 15 days since this incident...People are
talking on the news, saying that they have every-
thing under control," Gilbert said.
"I work out there and every day there is a new
set of oil coming up. What is going on with regard
to the oil is that the oil is on the seabed itself and
when the tide rises, it comes up.
"So this is a work in progress. This is not going
to be finished in two weeks.
"There are villagers and children who are going
in the hospital. My sister s daughter was in the
hospital, a youth across there was on his back for
a couple of days and there is a guy here who cannot
even come near us because he cannot handle the
"What enraged the people is the fact that
Petrotrin sent no representative to speak with the
people who are suffering on the ground. It is day
15 and no one is saying anything. That is enough
to get anyone vex."
Mothers yesterday pleaded with the Government
for more assistance, as they said children were
falling ill every day as oil continues to wash ashore.
Scores of residents living near Carat Shed Beach
and Point Suave also yesterday flocked to the
Brighton Sports Club to complain to Petrotrin
communications officer George Commissiong and
HSE staff member Steadman Cadogan. Residents
there complained that no doctors and nurses were
at the La Brea Community Centre as promised.
Later on a nurse arrived, but there was no doc-
tor.Commissiong said the Government and Petrotrin
were already looking into evacuating the people
and that all the residents problems were being
"We know they had some concerns and we were
told that if concerns were not addressed that they
were going to take some form of protest action,"
But Gilbert said yesterday s protest was only
phase one of residents action, as lawyers had
visited them and offered representation on their
behalf. If Petrotrin did not act swiftly, legal action
would be taken, he said.
"The next course of action is that we have
lawyers who are willing to fight for us, because
they too find this is unfair," he said.
"Phase two would be the lawyers getting in con-
tact with Petrotrin to let them know what is going
on with us.
The Environmental Management
Authority (EMA) will soon serve Petrotrin
with a notice of non-compliance with
environmental regulations arising out of
the oil spill that began on December 17
along the south-western peninsula.
Environment Minister Ganga Singh,
speaking with the T&T Guardian in a tele-
phone interview yesterday, confirmed that
the EMA will be serving Petrotrin with the
notice within a couple of days.
"There has been a breach, there have
been environmental breaches that have
occurred with this oil spill, and the EMA
will be taking the necessary legal action in
accordance with the law against Petrotrin.
There has been a breach and they will be
served shortly with a notice of violation,"
Singh s comment came even as La Brea
residents yesterday staged demonstrations
to express their disappointment over the
way the state-owned company has been
treating them since the spill affected their
The notice attracts a daily fine that could
run in excess of US$50,000.
This will add to the growing list of
expenses to the embattled oil company,
which is also facing claims of compensation
from affected fishermen and residents.
EMA, IMA monitor marine life
Singh told the T&T Guardian he met
with the committee that was set up to
monitor the environmental impact of the
oil spill. The EMA, Institute of Marine
Affairs (IMA) and other environmental
agents form part of that committee, Singh
He said since the oil spill occurred on
December 17 and spread to La Brea on
December 18, the EMA and IMA has been
updating him daily on the progress of clean-
"The IMA will be monitoring the impact
of this oil spill, in the short medium and
long-term, on our marine life, " Singh said.
"There will be certain regulatory and
enforcement issues that the EMA will deal
with (as it pertains to) Petrotrin. It is really
a tragedy that this oil spill is now impacting
upon our environment and we intend to
continue the monitoring of this impact
while the regulatory bodies deal with the
enforcement issues and the penalties asso-
ciated with that against Petrotrin."
On Monday, fishermen based at Otaheite
Bay took media personnel on a boat tour
to the protected Aripero Wetlands and Dow
Mangrove, Rousillac, where the oil spill has
started to intrude.
Yesterday, Singh said he was distressed
by the possible environmental damage that
the oil spill might inflict on the eco-sensitive
environment in the protected wetland.
"I am very concerned with the intrusion
of the oil into the mangrove as it impacts
upon the birds and aquatic life in the man-
grove and the whole question of the impact
of the oil spill on the biodiversity and also
on the marine life in the area," he lament-
ed.He described the oil spill situation as a
Petrotrin in breach
Residents of Coffee Beach, La Brea, hold up placards yesterday during a demonstration to highlight poor treatment from Petrotrin in the
wake of the recent oil spill. PHOTO: TONY HOWELL
EMA to serve non-compliance notice...
La Brea residents
ready to sue
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