Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and an environmental rights group have disagreed on remediation of oil spill sites at Ikarama community in Bayelsa State.
While the rights group, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), has alleged improper clean-up and remediation of spill sites by SPDC and the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC), SPDC has, however, denied the allegation.
NAOC, on its part, declined to comment on the claim by the environmental advocacy organisation when contacted.
Both SPDC and NAOC operate oil fields at Ikarama, in Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa.
ERA/FoEN made its allegations in a field report, entitled, “Shell’s Improper Clean-up and Remediation of Spill Sites Exposed”, where it indicated that “crude oil was found at depths of one meter and above in the ground” at impacted sites the SPDC and NAOC claimed to have remediated”.
According to the report, signed by Alagoa Morris, Head of Field Operations at ERA/FoEN office in Yenagoa, and his Assistant, Akpotu Ziworitin, the organisation visited Ikarama on Aug. 20.
The environmental rights group explained that the visit followed information, including photos, it received from the community claiming that crude oil was found in the ground in an area previously impacted by oil spills.
“On getting to the environment of interest, ERA/FoEN field monitors demanded that an entirely fresh spot be cleared and dug.
“It was eventually confirmed that crude oil was found in the dug area in the depth of more than one meter,” the report said.
It added that the organisation’s field monitors had visited the particular site several times since 2007.
The environmental rights group observed that “most of the oil spills have occurred within the immediate community environment close to residential buildings and farmlands.
“Over the years, ERA/FoEN has documented testimonies from community folks indicating improper clean-up of spill sites by SPDC.
“Oil spill sites go up in flames most often and areas where clean-up was attempted are often delayed before it is acted upon.
“This allows for percolation or leaching of crude oil into the ground. The fact that majority of the oil spills are recorded as third-party interference is also well known, even though community folks dispute some of the claims.
“However, community leaders/folks have alleged that some of the third-party oil spills in the community environment are instigated or sponsored by some staff or contractors of SPDC.
“Not only have these allegations been documented in field reports over 10 years ago, but a recent research also pointed to the fact.
“This latest revelation has confirmed ERA/FoEN’s position over the years in monitoring and reporting the Ikarama environment that Shell has not been doing proper clean-up and remediation of oil spilled impacted sites.
“This is the situation in all other communities in Bayelsa. Apart from the allegation of setting oil spill sites ablaze, Shell and Agip have not carried out proper clean-up and remediation of oil spill impacted environment,” ERA/FoEN stated.
ERA/FoEN has called on relevant government authorities to ensure that the SPDC and Agip committed themselves to operating in an environmentally sustainable manner.
The non-governmental organisation therefore urged the oil companies to get back to all spilled sites in Bayelsa and carry out proper clean-up and remediation in the interest of the people.
Reacting, SPDC’s Media Relations Manager, Mr Bamidele Odugbesan, who denied the allegations, maintained that the oil firm cleaned up spill sites in accordance with standards set by the industry regulators.
He said: “The SPDC uses primarily remediation by Enhanced Natural Attenuation (bioremediation) to clean up, a process believed to be the best for the soil and climate conditions of the hot and humid Niger Delta.
“Our clean-up and remediation are done under the regulatory oversight of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), and in line with a DPR-approved Remedial Action Plan (RAP).
“All our remediation practices are aimed to be compliant with the Environmental Guidelines and Standards for the Petroleum Industry in Nigeria (EGASPIN).”
By Nathan Nwakamma