By Richardson Dhalai Tuesday, December 24 2013
Petrotrin yesterday limited access to beaches affected by last week’s oil spills to personnel engaged in the clean-up process and residents living along the beachfront. At Coffee Beach, all persons, apart from residents and clean-up personnel, were required to submit their names and organisations represented to a Petrotrin security officer.
Previously there were no restrictions to the beach, however, a Petrotrin health, safety and environment (HSE) officer said limited access was put in place for the safety of all persons entering the affected area during the clean-up. The process included the grubbing and packing of contaminated sand into large bags as well as the use of vacuum trucks to suck up excess oil which had been accumulated.
Residents have been cooperating with workers at the site where up to 20 persons were employed per shift.
The HSE officer said they had not seen any dead fish or birds either in the sea or on the shore line. This was attested to by several fishermen who said they had only seen one oil soaked crab and a sea gull which had tracings of oil on its feet. He also noted the company had embarked on an ambient air quality testing to determine whether residents would be allowed to use open flames for cooking purposes. This was well received by Sally Anderson, who said the main concern of residents was the health and safety of the 100-plus community.
“Everybody thinking about their health, nobody even thinking about Christmas now since this thing happen,” she said, adding they were unable to clean their homes for Christmas. “A lot of people from the village are employed in the clean-up so when they come back home, they bringing some of the oil back into the house,” she said.
However, this did not seem to deter resident Esther James who was busily putting a coat of paint on her house, mere meters from the shoreline. Speaking from atop a barrel while painting, James said the main problem was the fumes which seemed to be dissipating.
“When the spill happen, my children wasn’t home so they weren’t affected and it wasn’t until yesterday that they came back home so we trying to clean up the house for the Christmas,” she said.
Meanwhile, at Fullerton Village, Cedros, the scene of protest action on Sunday by fishermen demanding compensation from Petrotrin, fisherman Donald Sookbir yesterday said the company had agreed to compensate fishermen for their equipment and lost income.
He said the company agreed to give each boat owner and crew an estimated $1,500 per day for the five days they were unable to fish.
“That is not enough because after you split it with the boat owner, the captain and the crew, each man only getting about $900 and we have to buy groceries with that,” he said. “But is still something and with Christmas coming and families to see about, we have to take it.”
The Fullerton and Bonasse beaches have been scraped of oil by a backhoe with the contaminated sand loaded onto trucks and taken for disinfection and cleaning.
Yesterday, the Energy Chamber voiced its concern about the impact of the oil spills, and noted the first priority was “to prevent any further damage to the environment and the livelihoods of our citizens”.
“It is also important that a thorough investigation involving all stakeholders is completed in order to identify the root causes of all of the incidents that have taken place,” the Chamber said.