EMA probes possible oil spill at Caroni Bird Sanctuary


Workers remove a black oily substance which was dumped in a drain near the Caroni Bird Sanctuary on Thursday night. – Darren Bahaw

The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) will continue cleaning what appears to be a hydrocarbon by-product reportedly dumped into a drain at the Caroni Bird Sanctuary carpark on Thursday. It seeped into the protected wetland – home of one of Trinidad and Tobago’s national birds, the scarlet ibis.

On Thursday night, workmen under the supervision of the EMA were suctioning black liquid, which gave off a nauseating scent resembling fuel, from a concrete drain in the carpark.

EMA incident commander Steve Lalbeharry could not identify the substance or how much had been spilled.

He said booms had been deployed in the swamp to prevent further damage to the environment.

The Caroni Bird Sanctuary is one of the main tourist attractions in the country for eco-tourism, and boat-tour operators transport scores of nature enthusiasts on both breakfast and sunset adventures in the swamp where they can witness the scarlet ibis, flamingoes and other birds in their natural habitat.

Lalbeharry said the EMA and other authorities began receiving reports of the incident around noon on Thursday and through a co-ordinated approach involving the Forestry Division, Heritage Petroleum, the Institute of Marine Affairs and other agencies.

He said samples had been taken for analysis and could not say how the yet-to-be-identified substance got there. Lalbeharry said on Friday the EMA intended to investigate further.

Avacuum truck had been called in to suction the substance in the drain, he said, and workers were seen removing grass and other debris to allow for a smoother operation on Thursday night.

He said while the substance had a “distinct, pungent, odour,” he was reluctant to describe it as a hydrocarbon pending analysis.

Chaguanas West MP Dinesh Rambally came to help and expressed concern about the potential impact on the wildlife of the swamp.

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