PORT OF SPAIN – A four-year-old schoolboy tumbled into the oil polluted Vance River this week, triggering a protest that led to Energy Minister Nicole Olivierre ordering Petrotrin to clean up the river immediately.
According to the Kaleb Hart’s aunt, Susan Jerome, the child was on his way to preschool on Wednesday when he slipped on the oil which covered a concrete bridge constructed by residents. He was smeared from the neck down. Jerome said: “the oil cover him. He went to Augustus Long and they discharged him. But the child sick and he have swelling on his body. We have to use this bridge that has oil on it and all they (Petrotrin) doing is throwing sand on it”.
The response by Petrotrin did not sit well with residents of Fritz Lane and Smith Street, who blocked the roads and burned debris. Jerome said that the child’s skin was covered with rash and is swollen, and that residents were seeking medical coverage from Petrotrin and wans the company to compensate them. “It hasn’t been two months since we brought the school books and uniforms and bags for these children. Every day they have to cross the bridge and they messing up their school clothes.
What Petrotrin will do for us then? We work hard to buy these things and we want back the money for it. They supposed to be cleaning these things and not just dumping sand on it,” she said. Resident Natasha Mitchell said her family has been seriously affected by the stench. She said: “We feeling sick, nauseous and one of my children eyes swelling, two others suffering with asthma and no one is helping us.”
Local government councillor for Brighton/Vessigny Gerald Debesette met with the protestors to hear their concerns.
La Brea Member of Parliament Nicole Olivierre said that Petrotrin has been engaged in clean-up operations with the oil spill. The Energy Minister told the Express:
“Information about the oil spill in the river at Vance River became known when a child slipped off a bridge and fell into the oil contaminated waters. The child was taken to the hospital, treated and discharged. Petrotrin has subsequently engaged a contractor to effect clean-up operations. Members of the community were offered employment by the contractor to assist in the clean-up. Clean up activities continue today and Petrotrin maintains contact with the injured child to ensure no additional symptoms are presented.”