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2013 La Brea Oil Spill
Official Statements on the La Brea Fish Kill Investigation

Official Statements on the La Brea Fish Kill Investigation

September 20th 2016

Due to conflicting information provided to the media over the past few months, FFOS now seeks to clarify the evidence on the on-going Fish Kills in the South Western peninsula of Trinidad.


In December 2013 Petrotrin had a series of oil spills including a major one on 17th December, the largest in our history, of some 7,500 barrels of Bunker C type oil, which heavily impact the coastline of south-west Trinidad generally and the beaches of La Brea in particular. Petrotrin and its energy partners were not prepared for the spill and the response from the energy sector was less than satisfactory. Spilled oil was dispersed prior to being contained because of a lack of equipment which had to be flown in from abroad. One of the dispersants used close to the shoreline in La Brea was Corexit 9500A. This product is intended to be used in open seas only and is banned in the European Union.
Following the spill the then Government created a National Environmental Assessment Task Force (NEATF) to conduct a thorough investigation on how and why the spill happened and on the resulting environmental impacts, including the potential for contamination of fish stock as well as to address any public health issues that may have arisen. The resulting Report was promised to the public but never released.

Missing Information

After numerous letters, FFOS sought access to the Report of the NEATF under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) from several government institutions and ministries including UWI, EMA, IMA, the Ministry of Energy, the Ministry of Trade as well as Petrotrin. FFOS was not successful. The Report was classified as a ‘Cabinet Document’ and exempt from the FOAI.
FFOS also searched the libraries of the IMA and EMA for any information relevant to the Petrotrin Oil Spill of 2013 but was unable to locate any information on oil spills prior to July of 2016. An internet search revealed that samples taken from impacted areas after the 2013 spill had been sent abroad to be analyzed. Every year since the spill at the onset of the rainy season fish kill occurred in the La Brea area. More oil spills have occurred since 2013 including as recently as mid-2016. Fish continue to wash ashore up to today.

Statements by EMA/IMA 21st July, 2016: Preliminary results indicate that the dead fish washing ashore may have been dumped. Red marks on fish may have been from the nets used to catch them. 99% of the fish observed were herring (bait fish).
26th July, 2016: No compounds matching COREXIT were found in any sediment or water samples. All body systems of fish analzed were found to be “grossly normal”. The likely cause of the fish kill was “dumped fish”.
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2nd August 2016: Further to water fish and sediment samples taken in the Gulf of Paria ( La Brea to Otaheite) no compounds matching COREXIT were found and pathology tests on fish showed all systems to be “grossly normal”.
17th August, 2016: Tests conducted by CARIRI on water, sediment and fish ruled out COREXIT as a cause for dead fish and no compounds matching COREXIT were found. CARIRI “was only able to detect Petroleum Hydrocarbons (PHCs) in catfish samples. The release went on to note the absence of international standards for TPH levels in fish. The statement noted that the levels of TPH found in the fish were “considerably lower than those reported by FFOS” in an earlier release.

Despite eye witness accounts, the testimony of residents and local primary stakeholder, photos, videos, the EMA/IMA remain steadfast that the recent dead fish were dumped by fishermen. Their report on the 2014 fish kill concluded that fish died suddenly from “entirely natural” algal blooms, resulting a drop in water oxygen levels and that COREXIT in particular and petrochemical toxins in general, were not the cause of death and that more analyses needed to be done.

Following fish kills in 2016 FFOS decided to investigate the matter itself and commissioned CARIRI to conduct analyses. Three sets of analyses were commissioned.
The Findings of the FFOS’ Investigations 1st: [25th July,2016] Three water, three sediment and three fish samples were taken and analyzed for TPH. Control samples of water and sediment were also taken at Maracas. The results show measurable levels of TPH in both water and sediment samples from La Brea (about 10 x that found at Maracas). TPH were found in all fish samples (334, 2,680 and 502 mg/kg).
2nd: [ 19th August, 2016] FFOS managed to get agreement from EMA to jointly commission this sampling and analyses from CARIRI. Analyses were done mostly on fish plus two sediment samples. The results show significant levels of TPHs in the fish. Salmon (4 fish tested):{51, 139, 1,620, 486 mg/kg}, Catfish (4 fish tested):{26,757, 2,143, 1,895, 1,763 mg/kg} Sapate (1 fish tested):{517 mg/kg}, Cro Cro (1 fish tested):{75 mg/kg} Boshea (1 fish tested): {1,978} Sediment (2 taken): {26,202, 457 mg/kg}
3rd: Analyses were requested for Poly-cyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The results are pending.
TPH is a term used to describe several hundred chemical compounds that originate in crude oil. Because there are so many different chemicals in crude oil, it is not practical to measure each one separately. However, TPH is a useful indicator of oil contamination. TPH values found in fish do suggest the relative potential for human exposure and, therefore, the potential for human health effects. However the assessment of health effects due to TPH exposure requires further investigation.

If you are exposed to TPH, many factors determine whether you’ll be harmed. These factors include the dose (how much), the duration (how long), and how you come in contact with it. You must also consider the other chemicals you’re exposed to and your age, sex, diet, family traits, lifestyle, and state of health. Fuel oil #6 includes about 25% aromatics, 15% paraffins, 45% naphthenes, and 15% non-hydrocarbon TOTAL PETROLEUM HYDROCARONS. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and alkyl PAHs and metals are important hazardous and persistent components of fuel oil #6. [https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/ToxProfiles/tp123-c3.pdf]
Way forward: There is urgent need to convene a Task Force comprising both State and Civil Society organizations including fishermen to interrogate what must be done to establish the cause of the on-going fish kills, to eliminate this cause and to ensure the integrity and well-being of both our environment and public health

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