THA monitors health impact of oil spill in Lambeau

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Health Secretary Dr Faith BYisrael – Photo courtesy THA

THE impact of the February 7 oil spill on the health of Lambeau residents is being monitored, according to THA Secretary of Health, Wellness and Social Protection Dr Faith BYisrael.

At Wednesday’s post-Executive Council media briefing at the Shaw Park Complex, BYisrael said that part of the response to the oil spill, which has affected almost 15km of Tobago’s south-western coast, has been a community health surveillance.

The spill occurred after an overturned barge – the Gulfstream – was found lodged on a reef and leaking bunker fuel some 200 metres off the Cove Eco Industrial Park. The barge was being towed from Panama to Guyana by a tugboat, the Solo Creed. The latter has since disappeared.

At a March 4 press conference, Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) director Allan Stewart revealed that the Gulfstream was no longer contaminating the water with hydrocarbons.

BYisrael said the surveillance started a couple weeks ago after some people reported health challenges.

“We started a surveillance process sometime ago, where individuals were identified, data was collected – we’re talking about both qualitative data and quantitative data where we periodically go to them. We’ve also been able to set up a medical post so if there is need for immediate medical attention – that is available.

“This is a process that we will continue for some time just to ensure that the residents who are closest to ground zero, that we would continue monitoring the health status there and we would continue ensuring that whatever is picked up, we are able to treat with it relatively early and relatively easily.”

She said the division has noticed a trend among those who have been ill.

“The individuals who identified issues at the beginning, we recognise that some of them may have also had co-morbidities, meaning they’ve been dealing with other health issues, so this may have just exacerbated some of the other health issues that they were dealing with.

“But they seem to be pretty okay, they seem to be going in the direction of being fine, but we would continue looking at those individuals, we would continue monitoring them and we would continue ensuring that they know that we will take care of them, if there is need for medical intervention otherwise.”

Meanwhile, Stewart gave an update on the clean-up operations.

He said, “At this stage, I would take what is happening at the shore side of things, meaning, therefore, there is clean-up continuing, but it is a different type of clean-up where you would not be seeing heavy equipment – taking care of the aesthetics along the coastal area of Scarborough moving further down to Lambeau.”

He added: “So that to me is going quite well where power-washing has started on some of the stones, or what you might call the protection borders that deals with the coastline. That is taking place along those stones to ensure that the trapped hydrocarbons that may be found and continuously plague us from time to time, they are finally taking care of those, and to me that speaks well.”

With regards to salvaging the overturned wreck, he said it is still uncertain whether there any liquids trapped in the vessel.

“I just want to alert the population that until we are clear in terms of the quantities that are in the various cells of the vessel, then we are not out of woods.

“The clean-up continues; we have all of the major implements, stakeholders and subject-matter experts that have surrounded this incident and they are lending their support.”