OML 29 Well leak: Impacted Nembe communities worry over air toxicity as 4-year-old dies

Posted by News Express | 20 November 2021 | 481 times

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The people of Nembe Basamri in Bayelsa on Thursday expressed concerns over the air toxicity following prolonged exposure to gas and crude oil leaks from a nearby oil well operated by Aiteo Eastern Exploration Company.

It will be recalled that the oil firm had reported a leak from an oil well at its Santa Barbra South field within Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29 on Nov 5 but community sources claimed that the leak was noticed on Nov 1.

It was gathered that residents at fishing settlements along the Nembe creeks have been living with the gas and crude discharge which has paralysed economic activities in the predominantly fishing location for the past two weeks.

Nimibofa Degi, a Community leader in Opu-Nembe who spoke in a telephone chat, said the people in the impacted arrears are worried over the air quality in the area and were have respiratory challenges.

He said that a four-year-old toddler developed complications following complaints of stomach upset and difficulties in breathing and was being transported to a health centre at Opu-Nembe from the fishing camp but she died on the way.

“The death of this four year old girl who is suspected to have died of Methane gas poisoning and we have expressed worries to the King that if nothing is done urgently, more deaths will be imminent.

“As a Biochemistry major, I know how toxic methane gas can be and we call for an emergency air quality audit to ascertain the toxicity levels in the impacted communities.

“If not for the resilience and robust immunity of the rural settlements, more people should have developed sever complications, the results of the air quality tests would go a long way to determine if evacuating the people is necessary.

“The well in question is a gas well with about 80 per cent has and 20 per cent crude reserve, and the ongoing response by more than 50 oil workers is on oil recovery while the toxic gas escapes into the atmosphere,” Degi said.

Reacting on the statement issued by Mr Mathew Ndianabasi, Spokesman of Aiteo, claiming that the oil firm suspects oil theft and sabotage, Degi dismissed the claim as a reckless prejudice to yet to commence investigation.

“It is just a ploy to evade liability for the obvious neglect. It is known fact that the well is non-producing and the area has salt water while the wellhead casing is made of stellar which is prone to corrosion.

“Rather than look inwards at their safety procedures for such high pressure wells they are pointing accusing fingers at innocent people. The surveillance worker who noticed and reported the leak is being hunted by the security agencies.

“We will resist every attempt to determine the cause of this disaster even when the investigation is yet to commence, every alliance between the operator and their surveillance contractors to divert attention from safety processes will fail.

“We have evidence that when the leak was reported earlier on about Nov 1, rather than use appropriate sealants, they used clothes to block the crack, we will give the evidence during the Joint Investigation and truth will prevail,” Degi said.

Meanwhile, the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency says it has authorised the deployment of oil spill response team from other oil firms in the country to assist is recovery of spilled crude to mitigate impact on the environment.

Idris Musa Director-General of NOSDRA who had earlier said that personnel deployed to investigate the incident could not commence work until the leak was plugged, said that the leak was yet to be stopped.

Source: News Express

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