Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 4th 2014 Contents A5
Saturday, January 4, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Escaped oil in the Gulf of Paria, which has con-
taminated beaches and mangroves along the south-
western peninsula, is now working its way into res-
idents home in La Brea.
Coffee Beach residents are now plagued with oil-
stained roads, yards and houses.
This was compounded by a high tide and persistent
rain yesterday, as Minister of the People and Social
Development Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh and La Brea
councillor Gerald Debisette experienced first-hand
the conditions being experienced by residents as they
toured the area.
After meeting with a few residents, Debisette called
on Government to declare the community a disaster
zone and urgently evacuate residents as more oil
washed ashore and filled the air with a toxic stench.
He said: "You are seeing exactly how the yards of
people who live close to the shoreline is. It is really
bad. People definitely need to be relocated and this
area is supposed to be declared a disaster area.
"Children are falling sick and have to be taken to
the health facility every day.
"Yesterday morning a young lady fell ill and when
she called the ambulance they did not come, even
the one from Petrotrin. She had to be taken in a
private car to the health facility, which is bad."
He added: "When you have the high tide, it brings
the oil into the people s yard and this is what is hap-
pening now. It covers people s yards and sometimes
the houses itself.
"It is getting more dangerous because the more
you clean, again, when there is high tide, it washes
ashore and it washes into the people s yards."
Sitting on a rail in his house, Mohan Bissessar said
he could not use his front porch as it was covered
in oil. He said he had recently bought a fridge and
was awaiting delivery but because the oil had blocked
the main entrance, he could not get it into the house.
Despite Debisette s sentiment, Ramadharsingh said
he sensed residents were satisfied with the amount
of work being done in the community.
No clean-up work has taken place since Monday,
however, because residents were protesting over the
Government s handling of their plight.
Ramadharsingh said: "This is a little different from
the beachfront (Point Suave) itself, the invasion into
people s private property. Some major clean-up has
taken place here and there is still work here to do and
there are still negotiations and discussions to be had.
"I am seeing a relative sense of satisfaction from
the residents. I mean there will be those who want
more to be done."
He said he understood residents were under stress
and said more stakeholders would be needed to rebuild
Before touring the communities, Ramadharsingh
took his ministry s Direct Impact caravan to the
Brighton Sports Club where food card services, the
Poverty Reduction, National Social Development Pro-
gramme and mobile health care services were offered.
He told those gathered: "We are sorry that you
have had to face these challenges in the past two
"However, we hope that today, we can take some
of the problem off your shoulders and in some cases
bring new services to you that perhaps you never got
the opportunity to learn about and apply for."
Debisette said although the services were welcomed
in the community, they would not address the current
problems brought by the oil spills.
Even the caravan was controversial, as residents
complained that the ministry did not advertise that
the service would be available and most of the people
invited to attend were not from the area.
Ramadharsingh admitted the event was hastily
organised but said everyone was invited.
High tide pushes
oil into La Brea
Fisherfolk along the southwestern
peninsula are calling on the state-run oil
company Petrotrin to defer its seismic
testing in the Gulf of Paria until the oil
spills which have been ravaging the coast-
line for the past 19 days, are completely
Yesterday, Otaheite fisherfolk took media
personnel on a boat trip to see the seismic
vessel, Sanco Star-Gibraltar Seismic,
anchored in the Gulf of Paria off Cap de
Ville, Point Fortin.
While the T&T Guardian was there,
cables were being lowered from the vessel
to the sea and pulled back up, indicating
seismic testing was taking place.
Alvin La Borde, president of the La Brea
Fisherfolk Association, said fishermen were
unhappy with Petrotrin s decision to begin
seismic blasting while the oil spills were
still an active threat to marine life.
"We have a disaster in the Gulf of Paria
and now they begin seismic testing for the
next five months," he added.
La Borde contended that fishermen from
Otaheite to Cedros were faced with a big
challenge because of the survey.
In 2006 PetroCanada did a seismic sur-
vey, he said, "and that lasted four months
and the fish stock did not recover. We only
now seeing the increase in the fish stock
and we have been asking them to hold on
the seismic testing."
Additionally, La Borde contended that
according to Environmental Management
Authority (EMA) regulations, Petrotrin has
to compensate fisherfolk before beginning
such surveys. To date, he said, no com-
pensation had been paid.
La Borde said Petrotrin had offered
$6,000 a month in compensation, since it
said the fishing stock was not high. He said
the company was using Ministry of Fisheries
data which was not accurate, rather than
data collated by fish vendors.
"All fisherfolk from Otaheite to Cedros
reject it (Petrotrin s offer). They need to sit
and work out a reasonable compensation
package for the five months of proposed
testing," La Borde said.
The testing, he explained, involved laying
cables in the seabed and sending seismic
blasts to determine what areas would be
best to drill for oil. These blasts, he said,
would force fish to migrate.
La Borde added fisherfolk would have to
keep their children home from school which
was set to open on Monday, because they
had no money. He said Petrotrin promised
to make interim payments to the fishermen
yesterday but none had been made.
"The company does not seem to care
anything about the residents and how they
handle the oil," he added.
...also want seismic testing in Gulf stopped
Members of the Fishing Association of
the Gulf of Paria yesterday accused state-
owned Petrotrin of withholding pertinent
information from the public regarding
recent oil spills along the southwestern
The group also called on President
Anthony Carmona to intervene to reveal
the "real effect" of the oil spills on human
and marine life and to declare a state of
emergency in the Gulf of Paria.
On December 17, the first of 11 Petrotrin
oil leaks was discovered.
The leaks allowed over 1,200 barrels of
oil to flow into the sea, according to figures
given by Petrotrin, blackening shore lines
along the coast and threatening the liveli-
hood of fishermen, as well as the health
In a press conference 14 days after the
first spill, Petrotrin, which contracted inter-
national experts Oil Spill Response Ltd,
said the spills were under control.
Petrotrin president Khalid Hassanali also
said Thursday the spills could be a result
of human interference.
At a press conference at Woodford
Square, Port-of-Spain, yesterday, repre-
sentatives of the fishing industry said
Petrotrin was keeping information from
fishermen and the nation on the oil spills.
The group included Fishermen and
Friends of the Sea secretary Gary Aboud,
president of the La Brea Fisherfolk Asso-
ciation Alvin La Borde and environment
engineer Cathal Healy-Singh,
"Where are the air quality reports?
Where are the toxicology reports? Where
are the independent bodies verifying
Petrotrin s information?" asked Aboud.
The group called on President Carmona
to intervene as it said government agencies
had failed them.
President of the Cocorite Fishing Asso-
ciation, Diane Christian-Simmons, raised
the question of the silence from key agen-
cies, such as the Institute of Marine Affairs
(IMA) and the Environmental Management
The EMA, which monitored the clean-
up exercise, said three days ago it would
serve Petrotrin with a notice of non-com-
pliance with environmental regulations.
The notice had not been served up to yes-
The IMA s response focused on the
source of the oil spills and determined that
the oil was a Bunker C type fuel and not
"All government agencies have failed us.
We are calling on our Head of State to
intervene and save us," said Christian-Sim-
Aboud raised the issue of the health risks,
saying people in south Trinidad were now
afraid to buy fish.
"Our citizens of T&T are eating from
the Gulf of Paria. What is to become of
the quality of the fish we are serving our
citizens?" he asked.
Despite a low consumption of fish in
south Trinidad, fishermen said yesterday
the price of fish was rising. That, they said,
was because of the oil spills and the start
of a seismic survey.
The group also reiterated calls to post-
pone the seismic survey, which is being
done to determine the location and size of
oil and gas reserves.
Hassanali refused to comment on yes-
terday s press conference but said if
Petrotrin had discovered a problem with
air quality, the company would have "dealt
He said the company had decided to
facilitate daily media briefings in south
Trinidad from next week and would answer
Fisherfolk call for
Carmona to intervene
Claim Petrotrin hiding oil spill info
La Brea resident Kurlon Pierre undergoes an ECG at the Brighton Sports Club, La Brea,
yesterday. Pierre decided to go for a check-up after feeling unwell due to the effects of
the oil spill in the community. PHOTO: KEVON FELMINE
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