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Letter: What we should all know about Petrotrin's danger
Published on May 8, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

Dear Sir:

One reason the latest oil spill at Petrotrin’s refinery occurred was because the base of their Tank 70 (T70) ruptured. This tank and 11 others were deemed "unsafe” in an official report way back in 2003 during a tank assessment exercise conducted at Petrotrin’s Pointe-à-Pierre refinery by Two Shell Global Solutions. T 70 scored a high 16 out of 25 for RISK back in 2003. What, if anything, was done to repair all 12 of the big and unsafe tanks between 2003 and now, and who was responsible for ensuring this was done? The below table was copied from the said report:

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The same report further states that other tanks, T70, T71, T72, T73 and T35, were all located on a hill and can potentially rupture leading to product spill in the sea, whereas T161 and T162 would lead to product spill in the residential area known as Cairo Valley. Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) are to date unaware of any emergency evacuation procedures for the families living in Cairo Valley. Should they not be alerted to these very risks in the event of a likely rupture and of what likely impact their families will suffer?

We want to know if Petrotrin and the minister are waiting on all of the other tanks to rupture and then to address the problem? If children and pregnant mothers are exposed to these toxic hydrocarbons will they die or suffer birth deformities and how long after will these effects still be felt? Cabinet should know that this is not a laughing matter and the minister, Franklyn Khan, should be respectful of those in danger and wipe his smile off his face when presenting vague, apparently uniformed statements in Parliament.

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On July 24, 2014, MP6 tank ruptured after 19 months of repeated warnings about MP6’s perforated roof and corrosion problems went unheeded. Price Waterhouse Coopers’ (an auditing company) investigations led to the dismissal of several senior personnel, yet today the minister is smiling and appears uninformed. Minister Franklyn Khan knows that an independent investigation must be conducted before the unaltered risk assessment reports go missing. It is the duty of the minister to know and say who are the mangers and officials responsible for this ongoing fiasco and how they will be held accountable?

How much oil was really spilled into the sea from Tank 70? Why has this been clouded with misinformation and conjecture? The tank ruptured from the base and the 2003 report stated plainly that if that happened, the tank would empty quickly. It has a capacity of 150,000 barrels and, according to the minister, only 128,530 barrels remain in the tank. Therefore FFOS have reason to believe that several thousand barrels (21,000) spilled into our sacred food chain/food basket.

One must be reminded that the government/ Petrotrin statement from the first day of the spill was that only 20 barrels leaked into the sea, which changed when, with mounting evidence to the contrary in the public domain, Minister Khan revised that figure by 15 times, up to 300 barrels of oil. Is Minister Khan reliably informed?

Can Minister Khan show evidence of how much was in the tank and how much remains?

Over time and without incurring the costs of proper upgrade and maintenance the condition of the Petrotrin tanks has been eroded, as has our confidence in their board of directors and senior management. Have Cabinet and the Petrotrin board been deliberately releasing false reports in attempts to pacify the very unhappy marine-dependent community? Are our fisher communities of boat, engine or net owners, captains or sailors, vendors, net builders, engine mechanics or transporters going to be compensated for this new assault on our "natural capital”?

We need responsible women and men to govern and safeguard our resources, not Officials who only act after a disaster has occurred and do nothing to prevent it. Successive governments have had a long history of ignoring and overlooking reports of the maintenance of their tank farms. OSHA has turned a blind eye knowing full well the danger time bomb dangers that are bound to happen. The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) has the mandate to safeguard the health of our country, and the right to shut down facilities that pose a critical environmental and human health threat. What are they waiting for?

Until and unless our elected leaders act with accountability and good public administration they will continue to cause untold hardship for countless communities who are without a voice.

Regardless of this unfortunate David and Goliath phenomenon, FFOS will continue to call for and expose the truth about this billion-dollar behemoth.

Terrence Beddoe, President
Gary Aboud, Corporate Secretary
Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS)
 
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