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Heritage Petroleum Company Limited has started the clean up of the New Cut Channel in Woodland after one of its pipelines leaked oil into the river earlier this week.

The company placed oil absorbent booms in the New Cut Channel and the adjoining Godineau River on Wednesday to stop the spill from entering the Gulf of Paria. Fishermen in the community said the oil spill began around Sunday. However, Heritage Petroleum said it received reports on Wednesday and immediately dispatched personnel to the site. They determined that the spill emanated from its 16-inch trunk pipeline.

The pipeline has been isolated and is being clamped.

President of the South Oropouche Riverine Flood Action Group Edward Moodie said while work to clean the mangroves is ongoing, it appeared that the Heritage Petroleum still did not find the leak. As a result, work crews were digging along the river bank as the pipeline runs across the river.

“There are two boats on the river right now with about five to seven men each, cleaning up the spill which is about three miles in length. They don’t even have tools, so they are breaking branches with their hands and putting them in feedbags. We are asking that more people come in to help with this cleanup operation,” Moodie said.

Another concern was compensation for fishermen as they cannot leave the Sudama Teerath to fish in the Gulf because the oil damages their boat engines. Moodie said several boat owners had to repair their engines and are missing several days of work.

“We are asking that Heritage reach out to us and start the discussion on compensation issues,” he said.

Other state regulatory agencies are in Woodland assessing the damage to the environment.

A tour of the river showed that many of the caimans in the river moved downstream. However, there remains a concern as crabs and oysters are covered in the oil.