5 days after leak from ruptured oil pipeline – 3 families still staying at La Romaine hotel

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

FLASHBACK: A worker inspects the ruptured oil pipeline on Monday in Massahood Village, Avocat, Fyzabad a day after it began leaking oil, polluting the surrounding area. FILE PHOTO –

HREE families affected by Sunday’s oil leak in Avocat, Fyzabad, are set to remain at Paria Suites Hotel and Conference Centre in La Romaine, as a precautionary measure.

An initial agreement between state-owned Heritage Petroleum Co Ltd and the families was that they relocate to the hotel at state expense until Friday. After that, the families would have been allowed to return to their homes, once it was deemed safe.

The 16-inch diameter trunk oil line ruptured at around 6.30 pm on Sunday. A total of 20 people from nine families were staying at the hotel.

“We were given an extension to stay. I cannot say how long we will be here. So far, three families are here. The others went to their homes, but if they have issues with the smell or anything, they could return,” Azan “Bob” Mohammed told Newsday on Friday.

Mohammed of Oil Well Road, and his family, are most affected by the leak as it happened on the compound where he lives.

He lives with his wife, their four adult children, the children’s spouses, and his four grandchildren, all under the age of six. They live in two adjoining structures. He said he had been living on the property from birth and, over the years, renovated the structures.

On Wednesday, Finance Minister Colm Imbert told the Senate that a home-owner had built a garage above the pipeline which ruptured on Sunday.

Heritage has also said that an occupant built a garage, including a concrete driveway on the pipeline’s right of way and, further, directly over the in-service pipeline. Owing to this, it was difficult for workers to carry out pipeline inspections.

Another affected family — the Alis — of San Francique Road also remained at the hotel.

Sareeta Ali said while the family was given an extension to stay, they do not know when they would be given the all-clear to return home.

She lives with her husband, their two-year-old daughter, and her husband’s grandfather.

“I saw a few families packing up. I am not sure if they would be returning. My neighbour would also be staying as well as the Mohammed family,” she said.

On Thursday, Heritage representatives, including health care professionals, did check-ups of the area.

Heritage has renewed calls for people occupying properties on or over its pipeline right of way to stop citing severe safety risks.

The company has warned that if people do not comply, it would take further steps, including litigation and removal of illegal structures.

The company also said pipelines are critical to its infrastructure, transporting oil and gas across the country.

Heritage said, “To keep them safe, inspections are an essential part of the maintenance process. Pipeline inspections are done using advanced technology to detect and identify potential issues. These include ultrasonic sensors and magnetic flux leakage sensors.”