The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) and Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) are trading words over the discovery of an alleged toxic waste dumpsite in K-Dere, Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State.
ERA/FoEN through its Programme Director, Mike Karikpo, stated that a team of its Environmental Field Monitors visited Lot 13 and Lot 14 on September 28, 2021, unearthed toxic waste dumpsite buried by the company in K-dere community, while Shell said the allegation is baseless and unsubstantiated.
According to the group, some workers of Centennial Development and Investment Limited, the contractor assigned to cleanup and remediate Lot 13, phase 1 batch 1 of the HYPREP delineated cleanup sites had also complained of a powerful stench oozing from the Lot.
ERA /FoEN disclosed that its field monitors noticed coloured creamy substances in the soil within the excavated pit. ERA further stated that an environmental scientist in the team disclosed that the stench and the colour of the groundwater in the pit are telltale signs that the site could be a toxic waste dump site.
The excavated area has been cordoned off but despite the possible health and safety implications of working in such deleterious environment as work was still ongoing at the different sections of the site and many of the workers did not have the benefit of protective face masks or other protective gear needed for such harmful site work.
No one knows when the toxic substance excavated by this cleanup contractor was buried but fingers are pointing inexorably to shell as the architect of the heinous crime.
ERA/FoEN recalled that in 2018, similar substances with heavily offensive odours were discovered at oil well No. 39 in Kdere community, and subsequent laboratory analysis confirmed that the substances were toxic wastes buried there by Shell.
Oil well 39 where the toxic substances were removed in 2018 by Shell was neither cleaned up and compensation paid to persons from the community who suffered any effects on their crop farming, nor their health status medically assessed.
ERA field monitors and some members of the community also recalled another incident of massive oil spill in Lot 13 and Lot 14 that occurred in 2008, with crude oil shooting up into the sky and across the nearby tarred road.
Lamenting the situation, ERA/FOEN Executive Director, Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, condemned Shell’s frequent acts of secret cocktails of toxic chemicals with repugnant smell dumped in Ogoni.
He said: “This is a major source of soil contamination and water pollution with serious health hazards, and community folks die off in installments owing to no fault of theirs but the greed and plunder of an oil company that will not play to the rules but has perfected the art of repeatedly violating the people of Ogoniland and their environment.”
To this end, Ojo called for the “immediate investigation by relevant agencies, especially NOSDRA on the alleged waste dump by Shell to ascertain the level of toxicity and harm to the people, environment, livelihoods and provide appropriate remediation.”
Karikpo stated that, “proper evacuation of the hidden cargo of toxic materials from Lot 13 should be conducted by experts and in a transparent manner and should involve relevant government agencies, impacted communities and civil society that are interested in tracking the movement of this likely cargo of death.”
Shell Nigeria Media Relations Manager, Bamidele Odugbesan told The Guardian: “The allegation that the water-based bentonite mud with a mixture of drill cuttings and sand excavated by an SPDC remediation contractor in K-Dere community of Ogoni in November 2017 is toxic waste is untrue and unfounded.
“The material, lying within the SPDC JV right of way, is essentially water-based mud with drill cuttings and sand with hydrocarbon content in some samples. The allegation was first made in 2018, investigated by the industry regulator and found to be untrue.”