Besides being traumatised, Marabella residents living near the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery are now incensed that more than a day has passed without Niquan Energy meeting with them over Wednesday’s explosion.As Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) leader David Abdulah met with residents of Silk Cotton Drive yesterday, he said not even the Occupational Safety and Health Authority, Environmental Management Authority, or the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries officials had found it fit to visit.
The Guaracara Refining Company houses the refinery and Niquan Energy’s gas-to-liquids plant. The only thing separating those plants from Battoo Avenue, Silk Cotton Drive, Sixth Street and others is the Guaracara River. It one of those communities Abdulah said he walked during his general election campaign in his bid to become the Pointe-a-Pierre MP.“It is as if the people in Silk Cotton Drive and other streets bordering the Guaracara River are just not important; like they do not count. So I thought I would come down here and say that this community counts,” Abdulah told journalists.As a former general secretary of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union, Abdulah said the area was a fenceline community. He said Niquan Energy has a critical responsibility to engage with the residents, not only in cases of an incident like Wednesday’s explosion of Niquan Energy’s hydrocracker but having emergency safety drills and providing numbers for residents to call. He said this was the case during Petrotrin’s era.“Hundreds of people are here and as you can see, there are a lot of children because you know school is on holidays right now. In any case, there is online learning; children will be at home. There are a lot of little children all over the place,” he said.
“They would have been absolutely traumatised by that explosion yesterday morning. Not only them but adults as well and nobody has come down here to inquire how people are, what are their feelings, what are their concerns, what can they do as a company to address the issue of safety, health and the environment.”He compared Niquan Energy’s recent start-up of the controversial plant to Patriotic Energies and Technologies’ rejected bid to acquire the refinery. He said the company’s head was a lobbyist in the United States of America for the government and alleging the company may have benefitted regarding the start-up of its plants.“Quite clearly, it was allowed to start up in an unsafe way because you cannot start up something and get an explosion of this kind immediately afterwards. That demonstrated that there was something fundamentally wrong ,which should have been found out long before the start-up,” he said.
Feeling snubbed by Niquan Energy, residents said if the company officials do not visit them, they will go to it offices. Recalling fires, noise pollution and oil leaks at Petrotrin, resident Brian Hamlet said health and safety personnel would have already been in the community. Hamlet said even fluid catalytic cracking causes fear. They said there was damage to their homes after the blast shook their houses.“We need them to come and if we have to go out there and stand up and block the road just like the police and fight for it, we will have to do that because we are not giving up,” Hamlet said.