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La Brea residents can cook again

By Vashtee Achibar Monday, January 13 2014

THE first signs of normalcy are beginning to return to coastline residents of La Brea as, for the first time in 27 days, residents in close proximity to the oil spill at Coffee Beach will again be able to light their stoves to cook their meals. The residents received yesterday from State owned oil company, Petrotrin, their last free meal which consisted of macaroni pie, pigeon peas, vegetable rice, potato salad, and barbecued chicken.

Following the December 17, oil spill along Coffee Beach, Carrat beach and Point Sable beach, residents living close to the affected areas, as a safety precaution, were banned from using open flames. Petrotrin had been providing three meals a day to the affected residents.

Yesterday, resident Dester Lee, told Newsday they were told by an official that it was now safe for them to go ahead and cook.

Lee, 47, a mother of five and grandmother of two, said while it was a welcome move, life for the residents has changed. Asked how the meal tasted, Lee replied: “I didn’t get meals because I live higher up. But I sneak a taste and it taste good. They changed the cook.”

Lee has opened up her humble home to another resident Tammy Montano who gave birth to baby girl Anaiah three weeks ago. Montano lives close to the beach and could not return to her home because of the noxious fumes.

Lee said: “I know they referred to us as a poor and struggling community. But we have our own way of life. We are accustomed to going to the beach for either an early morning bath or an evening bath. Our children are accustomed to bathing in the sea and playing cricket and flying kites, riding bicycles and other sports right there.

“On a Sunday afternoon after lunch we would go to the beach. We can no longer do that. We were told we would have to wait about a year before it is safe to do so. We were accustomed to using a hand seine to catch small fish to cook but we would not be able to do that anymore. We really miss the beach, it is part of our life. When other people go to the mall on a weekend, we take our children to the beach and bathe and watch them play. So people who don’t live here would not understand how we feel.”

Lee anticipates that more children from the area would now be able to resume attending school as they were required to do a medical check up at the health centre before returning to continue with their education.

Lee explained as well that residents who are employed in the clean up were told they had about two more weeks left.

She is however concerned about Montano, saying government should relocate her with the baby.

“She can’t go back there to live with the child. It not safe for the baby.

Petrotrin has scheduled a news conference for this afternoon at which the Company’s chairman Lindsay Gillette and president Khalid Hassanali will provide an update on the situation.

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