FLASHBACK - Community activist Victor Roberts shows the contaminated Carapal River. (Image: IVAN TOOLSIE)

The Board of Directors of Jasmin Oil and Gas Limited says illegal oil dumping in one of its old drill pits is behind the recent oil spill that followed flooding in parts of South Trinidad over the weekend, and which contaminated the Carapal River.

According to an official statement released by the company this morning, the drill pit in question has not been in use since 2015, but is checked regularly by the company, with the last inspection occurring roughly two months ago.

Jasmin Oil and Gas explains:

“It appears that the extreme recent rainfall caused an old drill pit, not in use since 2015, to overflow. Jasmin Oil and Gas makes routine checks of disused pits and at the last inspection, approximately eight weeks ago, there was no evidence of oil in the pit. It appears that at some time since the last inspection, the security fencing around the pit has been forced, and oily materials illegally dumped into the pit. These have now mixed with what would have otherwise been a straightforward discharge of rainwater during heavy rains. This suspected illegal dumping has been corroborated by statements from concerned local residents.”

The company also says the relevant authorities—namely the Police Service and the Environmental Management Authority—and they are conducting their own probes into what Jasmin Oil and Gas describes as a “criminal act”.  It also is asking members of the South Erin community affected to share any information “that could assist with bringing the perpetrators to justice”.

The company also notes that the worst of the spill appears to have been brought under control by the clean-up activities which were undertaken over the last couple of days.

The full text of the company’s statement, follows…

On Sunday, August 15, 2021, following torrential rainfall and flash-flooding across Trinidad, Heritage Petroleum Company Ltd received a report that in the South Erin region some of the floodwaters were mixed with oil. Subsequent to this report, Heritage informed its partner and local operator, Jasmin Oil and Gas Limited, of the issue.

An immediate response of containment, remediation and assistance to the local community was initiated by Jasmin Oil and Gas and its ultimate parent company, Challenger Energy.

Several dozen company staff, along with experienced environmental and cleaning contractors were sent to the area, as specialized equipment was necessary to contain any impurities in the floodwaters, prevent any further run off into the surrounding environment, and clean up any areas and homes impacted. At the same time, affected local households were provided with emergency relief supplies.

The situation is being closely monitored, but at this stage it appears the prompt response has effectively contained the situation. Clean-up activities are already well advanced, and will remain ongoing over the next few days until flooding subsides and there is no further evidence of contamination, with emphasis on the residential households and land that have been affected.

In parallel, an investigation is underway into the cause of the incident. It appears that the extreme recent rainfall caused an old drill pit, not in use since 2015, to overflow. Jasmin Oil and Gas makes routine checks of disused pits and at the last inspection, approximately eight weeks ago, there was no evidence of oil in the pit. It appears that at some time since the last inspection, the security fencing around the pit has been forced, and oily materials illegally dumped into the pit. These have now mixed with what would have otherwise been a straightforward discharge of rainwater during heavy rains. This suspected illegal dumping has been corroborated by statements from concerned local residents.

Appropriate reports have been made to both the Police and the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) regarding this criminal act, and members of the South Erin community are being asked to come forward with any information that could assist with bringing the perpetrators to justice.

Jasmin Oil and Gas remains steadfast in its commitment to being a good corporate citizen, as well as a key contributor to stakeholders within the South Erin community.

Board of Jasmin Oil & Gas Limited