Woodland fishermen who use the New Cut Channel and Godineau River to get to the Gulf of Paria are calling on Heritage Petroleum Company Ltd to begin a discussion on their compensation.
The fishermen said oil from a leaking pipeline flowed into the New Cut Channel around Monday, causing damage to their boat engines and staining the hulls.
It has already cost them to repair the boat engines, but their inability to use the rivers meant days without an income.
President of the South Oropouche Riverine Flood Action Committee Edward Moodie said that although someone contacted him from Heritage Petroleum to list the affected members, he wants company officials to visit and begin talks.
While company personnel were in and around the hazardous zone, Moodie and fishermen were unable to get information.
“We are trying to get onto whoever in Heritage would be the one to liaise with us with respect to compensation for the fishermen and the other people who have been affected.
“There are no houses that have been affected thus far, but there are people who are unable to go out into the sea.
“We have a few of the boat engines damaged. They went for repairs. If you look, you will see on a number of the boats, the outside of it is coated with oil right now and it is a difficult and costly task these fisherfolks will have to endure to get back on stream,” Moodie said.
Meanwhile, Heritage Petroleum is asking the public to stay away from the affected parts of the river.
In a media release yesterday, the company said people entering the area between the bridge at the La Fortune Pluck Road in Woodland and the river mouth at the Mosquito Creek can hamper the cleanup and put themselves in unnecessary danger.
The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) said it was monitoring Heritage Petroleum’s response.
The EMA also issued a media release and said its Emergency Response and Investigating Unit (ERI) participated in site visits along with teams from the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries and the Institute of Marine Affairs.
“Arising out of the site visits, Heritage Petroleum has initiated its spill contingency plan based on resources at risk, including the sensitive mangrove ecosystem.
“Booms have been deployed at several locations along the South Oropouche River, Godineau River and St John River to contain the spill and prevent potential flow to the sea.”
When Guardian Media visited the area, a contracted crew was cutting oil-covered branches of mangroves.
Another work crew excavated part of the river bank to clamp the leaking pipeline. There were no signs of oil entering the Gulf of Paria and further sighting of animal carcasses.
On Wednesday, the news team spotted a dead caiman floating as well as crabs and oysters covered in oil.
Moodie said this was concerning for the environment and the people who catch and harvest these kinds of seafood for a living.
On Wednesday, Heritage Petroleum said it engaged a wildlife rescue, conservation and rehabilitation team to respond to the ecological impact.