RESIDENTS of Ibaa community and Uvuawhu clan, comprising Ibaa and Obelle in Emohua Local Government Area, Rivers State, have kicked up a fuss over contamination of their underground water and environment purportedly by a multinational oil firm.
The villagers claimed that undetermined barrels of crude oil discharged from a corroded Manifold 8, operated by the Shell Petroleum Development Limited, SPDC, at Omuobizu in Ibaa have been polluting their underground water with hydrocarbons since 2015.
They said the situation aggravated as the unconstrained crude oil spread to nearby water wells in Uvuawhu Comprehensive High School and the compounds of some inhabitants, including Mr. Sunday Egbune in Omkpoba.
A source said: “In response, SPDC, in 2022, drilled several groundwater-monitoring wells across its trunk line to compounds near the location. It used cement to cast the water wells in Mr. Prince Chukwure’s compound and Comprehensive Secondary School from bottom to top to stop people from using those wells.”
Chukwure leads protest
However, following the contamination, Chukwure, leading other members of the affected family, approached the KABETKACHE Women Development and Resource Centre, and Obelle Concerned Citizens for help.
The KABETACHE group visited the community, stressed the need for investigation into the immediate and remote causes of the incident, and alerted operators of the facility, SPDC.
Community sources said that since then, personnel of SPDC have refused to engage with the affected families and community, but resumed efforts to clean the underground water, supposedly using uncertified methods.
The KABETKACHE Women’s Development and Resource Centre with support from Both Ends sponsored an environmental and socio-economic assessment in Ibaa community.
The study’s key findings from observation and scientific investigation revealed “a widespread crude oil contamination in the seven groundwater and four soil samples covering a radius of about 6km. The air quality index (AQI) for PM2.5, and CO was unhealthy for sensitive groups while nitrogen (IV) oxides were above permissible limits.”
The lead consultant, F & E Global Resources, Endwell Uchendu, Mr. Tosin Falodun of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA, and others, carried out the study
According to the report: “We analysed collected samples using GC-FID for hydrocarbons, TPH, PAH and BTEX, heavy metals (arsenic, iron, nickel, cadmium, and chromium), microbiology, and outdoor air quality (VOCs, particulate matter, CO, NO2, methane, Ozone, and SO 2).”
The hydrocarbons analysed in water and soils were PAH, TPH, and BTEX. We investigated total volatile organic compound and other criteria outdoor air contaminants.”
Underground water contaminated –Uchenna, environmental chemist
Speaking to NDV, an environmental chemist, Fortune Uchenna, who represented F&E Global Resources, said the study showed that hydrocarbons contaminated the underground water of Uvwauhu, comprising Ibaa and Obelle.
“The report has a very serious implication. What happened is like a wake-up call to the community. The community has to rise up and do something about it.
“The pollution is still there with the people; they are still drinking from the polluted water. Many of them do not know what has happened. They still go to the farm to get the cassava and vegetables, and it is not enough to wash it because the contaminants are there.
Looking at the phenomenon of environmental deposition, contaminants will travel across distances. The people are impacted and they need to do something urgently. Why I said so is because as long as they consume the water, they are still living with the pollutant.
“They should take whatever action needs to be taken speedily. There should be an alternative water source, it is important because as they drink the water, cook and bathe with it; they do so with the pollutant. The pollutant spreads across the area because the impacted aquifer spreads across the region.
“All the water that was tested is impacted. Only one or two meets the permissible standard. World Health Organization, WHO, or Drinking Water Quality Standards of Nigeria, DWQSN, says there should not be up to 3ml of hydrocarbon in water if found at all.
“But here, we have a situation where we are having 28 to 100mls. The concentration of these pollutants in the water exceeds a permissible limit by WHO and DWQSN; therefore, the people are at risk for drinking such water.”