Seven years after the shell oil company reached an undisclosed settlement with Christ Church farmers angered by an aviation fuel leak on their lands, which dates back to 1995, more landowners are now seeking compensation for their losses.
The settlement at the time covered 25 of about 33 farmers and landowners in Gibbons Boggs, Wilcox, Pegwell, Chancery Lane and Ealing Grove. In an open forum hosted attorney-at-law Andrew Pilgrim, QC, Thursday afternoon at Gibbons Boggs, landowners said they were still reeling from the effects of the oil spill.
Members of the community gave harrowing accounts of continued pungent gas smells and a spate of deaths from cancer, which they believed are linked to the decades-old spill.
Shell had faced two lawsuits over the impact on nearly 200 acres of farmland and the communities, of the 1995 and 2003 aviation jet A-1 fuel leaks from its Grantley Adams International Airport/Oistins terminal pipeline.
The farmers had charged that oil spilled from the seven-mile pipeline had wrecked crops, contaminated water supplies, reduced the fertility of the soil, caused a decline in production and earnings and forced some people out of agriculture.
However, Pilgrim contended that even though a settlement had been reached in 2010, it was unreasonable for the oil company to consider the case closed, as the damage was “certainly more far reaching than just the 25 farmers and landowners paid.
“They are dissatisfied in the way this ground has been negatively affected and they are unable now to grow and work this land in the way that they were able to do it in the past. They have seen that other people have been compensated and they obviously would like to be compensated. More importantly, it is clear that people want the land to be improved, they want something to be done so that any negative effects and impacts upon the land can now be addressed and the situation can be improved for future generations,” Pilgrim said.
The seasoned attorney told journalists the number of years which have elapsed since the settlement did not mean the statute of limitation had expired, as the effects of the spill continued.
“Did anyone really believe that there were ten farmers in the Boggs? Why is that you are settling with ten farmers? You could not have thought that those ten farmers’ neighbours were not affected.
“We have a duty to ensure that all of the people that have been negatively affected would be compensated; that is something in law we call the neighbour principle. If your action is affecting somebody, they are your neighbours and therefore you must treat them in a particular way, and in this case that is to ensure that their land is put in a position that it could be worked, and offer compensation where it is needed,” the attorney-at-law stressed.