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‘Waste oil contaminates ecosystem, worsens health’



Waste oil… The waste, often generated from industries, mechanic workshops and residential areas, are discharged into the soil, drainages or burnt into the air with attendant risk for both human and organisms’ survival.

As LASEPA begins statewide collection, recycling of used products 

ENVIRONMENTAL experts have warned that improper disposal of waste oil is a major cause of contamination of the ecosystem and chronic health conditions now seen in the public.

The waste, often generated from industries, mechanic workshops and residential areas, are discharged into the soil, drainages or burnt into the air with attendant risk for both human and organisms’ survival.

Meeting at a one-day stakeholders’ forum on waste oil management and disposal in Lagos State on Tuesday, experts were unanimous that the popular habit of waste oil disposal contaminates drinking water, harm aquatic animal and plant life, depriving aquatic plant life of necessary sunlight nutrients and oxygen.

Worst still, approximately 200 million litres of used oil is dumped on the bare ground or poured into the storm drains every year nationwide.

Director of Occupational and Environmental Health at the Staff Health Service, Lagos State Ministry of Health, Dr. Layeni Adejumo, said that the challenge of coping with waste oil and their health implications were severe than the public is aware of. Adejumo said all chronic diseases, including renal, cancer and lifestyle conditions could be linked to long-term exposure to toxic substances that are not unconnected with waste oil pollution.

Waste oil, also called used oil, includes lubricating oil, medium and light fuel oil, diesel/gas oil, gear box oil, hydraulic oil, electrical insulation oil, heavy oil, kerosene and turbine oil among others carrying special addictive for today’s high performance engines.

Because of their contamination through the engine, used oil can be more environmentally damaging than crude oil pollution. When release on land, used oil tends to migrate through the soil, stressing oil microbes and other small organisms.

Loss of these organisms reduces nutrients cycles and can stress the plant foundation of the food chain. One pint of oil in a body of water can produce an oil slick that will cover one acre or a standard football pitch.

It may take up to 20 years for an aquatic system to recover from an oil spill. Adejumo stressed that those exposed to the toxic substances, either through inhaling the gas or consumption of contaminated food and water, are at risk of mild conditions like headache, dizziness and skin diseases down to severe conditions like cardiovascular, cancer, respiratory disorder, infertility and renal diseases.

General Manager of LASEPA and chief host at the forum, Rasheed Shabi, said there is currently a high rate of contamination of underground water, as a result of injection of used oil into the ground from various mechanics garages, workshops and other facilities.

Shabi estimated that at least 24 million of the 200 million litres of waste oil could be accounted for among Lagos automobiles alone, and a source of concern for the authorities. “There are at least two million vehicles plying our roads in Lagos. On the average, they service their engines three times a year at four litres per vehicle.

What about the generators — both industrial and residentials? Where do they go? Into our public drains and underground water and the vegetation,” he said.

He added that it would interest Lagosians to know that Section 21 of the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency Law CAP L23 of the Lagos State Law 2004 on the prohibition of manufacturing or storage of petroleum products in industries or residential areas had been in existence with little or no enforcement.

Shabi said that the Lagos State government through LASEPA is now set to regulate the collection, handling, transportation, haulage, sales point, processors, as well as treatment (recycling) and safe disposal of waste oil.

The state government, through LASEPA, has partnered on the use of Ecocycle Technology, to provide Lagos with a simple and safe way to dispose used oil.

Hence, it illegal for any person or group of persons, either corporate or individual to import or export, collect, store, sell and distribute any waste/used oil as defined by Section 22 without a valid permit from the LASEPA, adding that fine attracts about N500,000 or a term of five year imprisonment and N1m in the case of a corporate body, Shabi said.

Managing Director of Ecocycle Energy Solutions, Albert Adewunmi informed that recycling of waste oil had already begun in the state and collection points are due to be sited statewide. Waste oil when recycled produces diesel; base oil that is reusable and residue oil for asphalt making.

So, it is a 100 per cent reusable oil,” Adewunmi said. Dr. Chuks Isanbor of the Chemistry Department, University of Lagos, Akoka, said there was need to encourage reprocessing, reclaiming, regeneration (removal of the contaminants) and reuse of the waste oil in the interest of all, especially given the high proportion generated from automobiles.

Member of the Lagos State House of Assembly representing Badagry II Constituency, Setonji David, said it was unfortunate that Lagosians are unaware of the consequences of illegal disposal of waste oil and in the process, “compromising our tomorrow”.

That is why the Lagos legislative arm of government would be unrelenting to give support to developmental drives and promotion of healthy environment, David said. “It is unfortunate and quite alarming that over 200 million litres of used oil is channeled into the ground because we don’t know the consequences of our action. That is why this summit is very apt and we need to increase awareness among the people.”

Expressing the goodwill of the state governor, Permanent Secretary, Office of the Chief of Staff, Abiodun Bamgbodu, said the awareness forum was in line with the vision of governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s government to have a “safer, healthier and prosperous Lagos.”

Bamgbodu said the applicable laws were clear, and appealed to all and sundry to ensure compliance, rather than wait for the authorities to enforce the laws and punish violators.

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