Tension as locals and leaders crash with Kenya Pipeline Company over oil spillage in Kiboko River

Kiboko locals and leaders in Makueni county have demanded that Kenya Pipeline Company must stop the ongoing cleaning of Kiboko River that has been contaminated following oil spillage on the newly constructed Ksh. 48 billion Mombasa-Nairobi pipeline and instead contract an independent body to conduct the clean-up exercise.

The community raised environmental health concerns saying the oil leak that might have covered a bigger percentage of the 18 kilometers of the natural spring pose immense danger to both plants and animals blaming Kenya Pipeline for insufficient efforts in ensuring the locals who depend on the ever-green spring have an alternative source of water.

The leak which occurred on March 30, 2019 happened in a well-conserved forested area at the source of River Kiboko, a seasonal river which both locals and livestock depend on occasionally.

“We demand that an environmental study impact be done to guide the process of cleaning the river and be done by an independent body,” said Wilson Mbithi Munguti, chairman of Kiboko Water Resources Users Association.

They anticipated a looming shoddy work that might leave the site with high diesel content.

Leaders said that it was wrong for the company to set an examination, do, mark and declare they’re successful noting that the oil company must allow other bodies to find out what exactly led to the leakage in a pipeline which was completed last year.

Pollution of this water source means that over 10,000 residents who depend on Kanaani water project that draws water from the spring are at the risk of contracting diseases.

“The site of spillage is within water catchment zone for over 10,000 people who use the water. We don’t want a repeat of Thange in Kiboko where people used to consume water mixed with oil and they were later taken in for medical examination. We want this water declared unfit for human consumption and KPC offer clean drinking water to the
people”, Mr. Munguti said.

Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior poked holes on the company’s ignorance on the number of litres of diesel might have spilled; the extent to which it had spread along the water catchment zone before starting their cleaning, the severity of the damage caused and who witnessed the ruptured pipe had been repaired satisfactorily.

“This spill is worse than Thange which was 18 feet deep. After Thange incident we said Kenya pipeline needs to be extra careful where their pipeline is crossing a river. Therefore, we want National Environment and Management Authority (NEMA) to give a report, and then we want it established how many kilometers has the spillage spread and the water
be tested,” said Mutula.

He questioned on the effectiveness of the company’s detection systems since the new line which also intermittently carry different petroleum products in turns is reported to be digitized.

Kenya Pipeline Company acting Managing Director Hudson Kanyangi Andambi on his side apologized to the locals saying the spill was a normal accident.

However, he said preliminary report showed that the breakage might have been caused by weakness caused on the pipe while excavators were covering the line last year when the project was under construction.

“This place is rocky and excavators might have damaged the pipe with rocks, weakened over time hence the spill,” said Andambi.

He told curious villagers who had gathered at the site that they had already sealed the pipe and they were in the process of identifying to what extend might have the oil spread.

However, he called for calmness among the locals to wait for Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority who earlier visited the site to make their report public as well as insurance company to visit and assess the damage caused before KPC makes another move.

The company’s Operations and Maintenance Manager, Joshua Mutea together with his technical team confirmed no continuing leakage. But, Bahari.co.ke identified that oil could have spread far distances along the spring with waters in dug shallow wells covered with oil.

Further, the soil down the stream is oil soaked and oil spill response workers are on site with bringers sieving oil floating on water to Nairobi.

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