Indiscriminate dumping of waste motor oil in a tributary to the Caparo river over the last two months is not only threatening the ecosystem but is also affecting a Tilapia farmer's livelihood.
Farmer Christian Penco and Pastor Wayne Brown of the Inheritance International Centre, which is located opposite the tributary, complained that they have made numerous complaints to several agencies, including the Environmental Management Authority (EMA), but have not gotten any help.Guardian Media visited the area along Inheritance Drive, off Caparo Valley Brasso Road, Longdenville on Monday and observed the water, plants and birds all stained with black oil and the fumes were pungent.
Brown said they first noticed that something was wrong when the palm trees they planted along the watercourse to beautify the roadway began turning yellow and when they uprooted them the roots were stained with oil.
"We called to the EMA, they said they were coming, we did not get any action. We wrote to the public health, we still got no action. We complained to the Borough (Chaguanas Borough Corporation), still no action. And this thing just continues and the dumping of oil seems to be continuing because it is getting worse."
"This tributary goes into the river. You sometimes see caimans and different things come up and they black (with oil,) fish in there too, the birds are black," he said.Brown was concerned that the authorities were not taking the matter seriously.
"This has to be cleaned up because this is an environmental hazard. The whole ecosystem of life is being destroyed and whenever the rain falls very heavy and this water flows over in the road, is oil in the road, the road is being damaged. This is not good. Penco who has been operating a nearby fish farm for the past three years said he has done no tests to establish proof, but he believes the contaminated river is causing the high rate of fish mortality on his farm.
"The water birds land in the oil. The oil adheres to their bodies and they go onto my tanks to pick for fish and they sometimes drip into the tanks."
"Having tested the water I am not of the opinion that there is any long-lasting problem, but I continually have to change and monitor the situation, where I did not have to do that is the past, to maintain my water quality and sometimes these toxins have a residual effect," he said.
Equally concerned that the oil is contaminating the river, Penco called on the authorities to take immediate action to have "that situation cleaned up and stopped."Fishermen and Friends of the Sea secretary Gary Aboud also visited the site and called on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and the EMA to address the situation immediately.
The group alleged that the oil was being dumped there by a nearby trucking company.
However, the company's owner Sieurajh Dass said he was not responsible for the situation. He said the tributary is within his land, but it is an unfenced area and people trespass on to his property.
"The land is my land. It is an open space. It is about six acres and I lost two trailers that I parked there. People steal it, people dump garbage, they dump stuff. I am aware of that oil being there."
Dass said he hired a truck "to absorb the oil" and as soon as the weather permits "we will put dry sand."
"That is much as I can do. But we were not responsible for any oil being dumped there. We don't deal with oil. We are a transport company."
EMA managing director Hayden Romano said the EMA received no recent reports about this incident but they are investigating the matter. He said an EMA team visited the site yesterday.
Chaguanas Mayor Gopaul Boodhan said the Corporation is working with the relevant authorities to ensure that the matter is addressed. He said action will be taken against those found culpable for the oil contamination.
"Whomever it is traced back to, the law will take its course where EMA is concerned and the corporation is concerned and the County Medical Officer will also get involved," he said.
- by Sascha Wilson. Photos by Rishi Ragoonath