Workers clean outside the Atlantic LNG facility yesterday after a Heritage Petroleum tank ruptured spilling 628,000 barrels of saltwater into three communities in Point Fortin.6/8/20

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Residents of Point Fortin are asking to be relocated saying they are fed up of oil spills, fumes and flooding.

The call follows the rupture of Heritage Petroleum Tank 27 on Sunday spilling over 600,000 barrels of saltwater into three communities.

The force of the water carried away a car which was parked on what was once the Trinmar compound. Another vehicle on the Atlantic LNG site was also waterlogged.

The force of the spillage also damaged underground electrical cables belonging to the Seven Seas desalination plant, causing 19 areas to be without pipe-borne water.

When Guardian Media visited the area, the waters had subsided but black crude was stuck on the vegetation near the western gate of Atlantic LNG.

Cleanup crews were on the ground mopping up oil slicks from the surrounding areas of Mahaica, New Lands and Clifton Hill. Vacuum trucks and an ambulance were on site.

Resident Deion Hendy who owns a garage a couple hundred metres from the spill site said the fumes were so overpowering that his entire family including his wife Debbie-Ann Mc Leod, 40, children Shawneser Douglas, 18, Ezekiel Douglas, 15, Dennika Hendy, 11 and Delicia, five, were all hospitalised.

“We were experiencing dizziness, nausea, vomiting and we came back from the hospital about 1 am this morning,” Hendy said. He explained that he had no choice but to bring his family back home.

His wife Mc Leod said her sisters Bernadette Joseph, 42, and April Lewis, 22, as well as her children G’naya Alleyne and Serena Joseph, 13, were also hospitalised. They too were later discharged.

Another resident Raquel Mitchell-Bowen called on Heritage Petroleum to relocate all the residents from the area.

“Too many incidents happening here and we are legitimate homeowners. We want to go from here. Find a place for us,” she said.

Another resident Sherry-ann Teesdale said she suffered from sinuses and the fumes had affected her badly.

“I does ketch fits and I want to new relocated from this area,” she added.

MP for Point Fortin Edmund Dillon, who was on-site with Mayor Kennedy Richards said the tank was undergoing hydro-testing operations when it ruptured, spilling the water into a nearby oil sump.

“The water carried the oil into all the nearby drains along a radius of over 200 metres. The fumes permeated the entire area causing close to a dozen residents to fall ill,” Dillon said. He explained that the area where the tank ruptured did not have any residents nearby but the fumes from the spillage were carried downwind.

Dillon said Heritage Petroleum quickly mobilised its emergency response team and attempts were made to contain the spill so that it would not enter the sea. He said contractors were on-site to monitor the movement of the spill, noting that the teams were working quickly.

“Damage is based on the foliage and the grassy areas and on the roadway. No residents were impacted directly,” he said. He explained that although a no-cooking restriction was imposed as a safety precaution immediately after the spill, this was subsequently lifted after air quality tests showed that the fumes had subsided.

He said food hampers were distributed to the residents.

Meanwhile, Mayor Richards said he was liaising with WASA to restore pipe-borne water to the Borough.

“WASA said based on information if they do not restore water by noon today, they will reroute the water from the Chatham Water Treatment Plant. We will also arrange water at the Corporation. We have a water trucking system as well,” Richards said.

The Mayor who was on the ground up to midnight bringing relief to residents said he will continue to show support to the affected residents.

Meanwhile, corporate communications manager at Heritage Petroleum Arlene Gorin-George said the spillage was the result of hydro-testing operations which took place on Sunday evening around 5:30 pm.

Gorin-George said the company was doing an asset integrity assessment on all of its infrastructures and it was during this process that the tank failed. She denied a report that the tank failed because officials were trying to meet a 10-day deadline to get the tank ready for storage.

She said several other tanks were being tested. Asked whether there was a better way to assess tanks without actually filling it in the event of a rupture, Gorin-George said this was “best practice procedures.”

She could not say whether there were any other methods to assess infrastructure. Gorin-George said the tank had a capacity of over 600,000 barrels. She said Heritage had planned to store oil in the tanks as the price was so low but with the increase in the oil price, Heritage Petroleum had resumed the sale of oil.

WASA responds

Meanwhile, WASA in a statement confirmed that it had resumed operations at the Point Fortin Desalination Plant.

“Plant production is projected to be at full capacity of 5.6 million gallons per day by midnight tonight and the scheduled pipe borne water supply to affected customers is expected to normalise in 24 hours thereafter,” WASA said.

The Authority said it inspected the underground electrical cable system at the facility, by Seven Seas Water (Trinidad) Unlimited, which owns and operates the Point Fortin Desalination Plant.

The cable system was flooded after the failure of the tank which affected several areas including Point Fortin, Parrylands, Cochrane, Mahaica, Lot 10, Savannah, Harriman Park, Clifton Hill, Reservoir Hill, Fanny Village, New Village, Salazar Trace, Pilgrim Street, Techier, Vance River, Merrimac, Vessigny and La Brea all the way up the Southern Main Road to the Pitch Lake.