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Declare La Brea a disaster zone

By Vashtee Achibar Friday, January 24 2014

click on pic to zoom in
Making brooms: Theresa Castillo, 73, makes brooms from a coconut branch on the steps of her home at Queen Street, La Brea, yesterday....
Making brooms: Theresa Castillo, 73, makes brooms from a coconut branch on the steps of her home at Queen Street, La Brea, yesterday....

La Brea Member of Parliament Fitzgerald Jeffrey is calling on President Anthony Carmona to declare areas along the south western coast affected by the December oil spill a disaster zone. He also wants the President to appoint an independent commission of inquiry into the oil spill.

Further, the Opposition MP is calling for affected residents to be temporarily relocated to Housing Development Corporation houses until the danger subsides and for them to be compensated.

He is also warning citizens to be careful when buying fish as it may be contaminated with harmful dispersants used to clean up the oil spill.

Addressing a news conference at his La Brea constituency office at Southern Main Road, La Brea, yesterday, Jeffrey again accused State oil company Petrotrin of disrespect in treating with affected residents.

Declaring the oil spill was “due to high class carelessness and gross incompetence” on the part of Petrotrin because of its failure to maintain its pipelines and storage tanks, Jeffrey said the Environmental Management Authority had advised Petrotrin to relocate residents when the spill was first detected and the scent “was unbearable.” “Thirty five days later and not even the bedridden pensioner has been evacuated. If that is not contempt, you tell me what is. Remember urgent evacuation was recommended,” he said.

Noted the 150-plus residents were offered accommodation at the La Brea community centre which, he said, is structurally deficient with only one functional toilet and one shower for males and females. He said housing is available at Hubertstown, La Fortune and Southern Gardens in Point Fortin.

Another sore point with the MP is the use of the dispersant Corexit 9500, which he claimed is banned in 19 countries including the United Kingdom and Sweden, to bring the oil spill under control.

“Over the past two weeks or so, a very shocking revelation came like a thief in the night to residents of La Brea. It was the use of the dispersant Corexit 9500. The coastal communities in La Brea are already living stressful lives and now to hear about Corexit 9500,” he said. Jeffrey said Corexit 9500 is to be used under strict conditions but the rules were violated.

Jeffrey said the use of the dispersant should be of concern to the national and international community.

He advised citizens to be careful when purchasing and consuming fish because of the danger of contamination of the harmful dispersant.

“Who is conducting tests on marine life to determine the degree of toxicity and the time frame for marine life to be fit for human consumption?” the MP asked.

He called on “all consumers of fish to be on high alert because a lot of the fishes in our waters may contain highly toxic chemicals.”

“I am advised that a lot of these chemical tend to concentrate just under the skin of the large fishes,” he said.

Efforts to contact Petrotrin for a response via telephone and e-mail were unsuccessful up to news time.

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