PORT OF SPAIN – Hours after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley expressed concern over T&T’s declining oil production and the $20 billion unserviceable debt to Petrotrin, barrels of the precious commodity have once again leaked into the Gulf of Paria.
La Brea Fisherfolk Association president Alvin La Borde said since Sunday, oil was seen emanating from Well ABM 37 located in the Brighton Marine field.
Last July, Petrotrin commenced the plugging and abandonment of the well. In his address to the nation on Sunday, Rowley said that for the last ten years, T&T has been sitting on an oil production crisis with output dropping from 143,000 barrels a day in 2006 to 78,000 in 2015 — the lowest in 65 years.
He said low production was masked by favourable prices but with sharp decline in the past two years, the situation can no longer escape the country’s attention. When La Brea residents woke up to the pungent smell of oil yesterday, it immediately triggered the horrors of the devastating 2013 oil spill.
For days they were unable to cook and those living closest the shore had to vacate their homes.
Scores gathered Monday along Coffee Beach as Petrotrin officials assessed the damage while clean-up crews loaded bags of blackened sand onto trucks.
They said many people were still suffering from acid reflux, respiratory diseases and muscle weakness as a result of the 2013 disaster.
Just last month, a damaged offshore line leaked a significant amount of oil into the Gulf of Paria, which washed ashore at Mosquito Creek, South Oropouche, La Brea, Point Fortin and Cedros.
It coincided with several weeks of fish kills, which left fishermen and vendors still reeling from poor sales.
Catherine John said she was standing in the road around 4 a.m. when she noticed oil washing ashore. She said her daughter usually walked her dog along the beach and when they returned, there was oil on their feet.
“It is not coming in as strong as before, that we have to leave our houses. But with the breeze, by tomorrow more can come up. The smell is bothering me right now because look at where I am living, so close to the beach,” John said.
For some residents, they hope the spill brings work to the repressed community where many adults spend their days at home. During previous spills, some were employed to clean the beaches.
La Borde said Monday he had warned Petrotrin’s security and Corporate Communications Department about oil seeping into the Gulf of Paria.
He said he pleaded with the company to take extra precaution since the well had been out of order for sometime and had collapsed under the surface. He suggested that a boon be placed around the area to contain the seepage but nothing was done.
With the national fishing community already affected by low sales, he said that did nothing to help to restore their livelihood.
In a release Monday, Petrotrin said following the heavy rainfall over the weekend, oil was seen along the shoreline of Carat Shed Beach and Coffee Beach. However, they were yet to identify the source.
“While Petrotrin continues in its efforts to determine the source of the oil, all efforts are being made to ensure the clean-up is done within the shortest possible time frame,” the release added.
Calls to Energy and Energy Affairs Minister and La Brea MP Nicole Olivierre were unanswered Monday.