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Concerns mount over underground water pollution in Lagos communities

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Residents protesting at the filling station in Akoka, Lagos recently

The recent explosion that rocked Abule- Ado, a Lagos community located near the International trade fair and Festac Town, Ojo has rekindled concerns over underground fuel pollution in some communities in the state.

The incidence, which affected 170 buildings, displaced 276 persons and led to over 20 deaths with properties worth trillions of Naira destroyed, has sent shivers at the spine of residents in some communities designated as places where disasters are awaiting to happen.

One of such communities is Baruwa Community, in Alimosho Local council in Lagos. For years, the community has been having a running battle with environmental pollution caused by oil spillage from the petroleum pipeline that runs through the community from Mosinmi oil depot and Ejigbo oil facility.

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Baruwa is a settlement within Lagos metropolis. It is a few kilometers away from Ikeja and is surrounded by other notable communities like Egbeda, Ayobo, Alimosho and Ipaja townships.

The residents have attributed the problem on wrong location of petroleum infrastructure, saying the spillage is capable of wiping out communities in the affected areas if not checked.

One of them, Alhaji Moyawo Hammed said despite outcries on the effect of the spillage on their lives and environment, which often result to breathing and respiratory disorder, nothing significant has been done by the authorities.

More pathetic was the case of residents in Akoka in Bariga local council. Over 600 residents in this community had since 2017 been battling with fuel leakage from Total Petrol filling Station in the area emanating from its underground tank, that polluted some water sources in the area.

The most affected victims of this unfortunate leakage are residents of St Finbarrs’ College Road, and adjoining Streets, namely Abdullahi, Aiyetoro, Oyenuga, Wulemotu Ajoke , Itsiwaju, Shobande and Sholanke Streets.

Among these are vulnerable persons, including 155 infants and young person under the age of 17 and quite a number of elderly persons between the ages of 66-90 years.

The Guardian learnt that the victims are aside hundreds of school age children who constantly quench their thirsts with the poisoned water from the public taps in the community on their way to and from school.

Already, the residents have sent a save our souls letter to the governor on what they called systematic and gradual poisoning of their community by Total Plc.

They are requesting for a clean portable water, medical evaluation, screening and treatment of the residents as a result of the pollution as well as the exhumation of the 49-year-old Under Storage Tanks (USTs) at the Total Filing station and possible relocation of the station far away from the residential area.

The Guardian investigations revealed that an Environmental Forensic Audit conducted by Clean Environmental Systems Limited , Oregun on behalf of the community showed that the total petroleum hydrocarbon content of a sample from public tap at St Finbarrs Street showed 3.7, which is 74 times the acceptable Department of Petroluem Resources (DPR) limit.

Similarly, another test on 36 St Finbarrs public tap showed 4.85 mg/l of TPH, which is 97 times the accepted limit.

Also, the Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH) content in a sample from residence borehole at 4, Abdullahi Street, Akoka is 75.6 times the DPR acceptable limit.

Consequently, the affected residents in a letter to the governor dated January 21, 2020 and signed on their behalf by Alhaji Akintunde Ogunefemi and Ms. Chinenye Umeike noted that they were constrained to cry for the governor’s help because Total Nigeria Plc and its cohorts are bent on poisoning citizens within the Akoka community with Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) until they all end up gravely ill or dead.

They stressed that they became acutely aware of the presence of PMS in their underground water some time in 2017.

According to them, the smell oozed from the tap water in their homes and community general, while the source of the calamity was in August 2017 traced to the Total filling station located along St Finbarrs’ Colleges Road, Akoka.

They stressed that at about the same time, the dealer/manager of the Total Filling Station, Alhaji Aleem Maruf had agitated that there was pilfering of PMS at his station .

A fire combustion, as a consequence of a large volume of PMS mixed with water in one of the gutters which got into the gutter as a result of flushing of the contaminated water from a house close to the filling station, they said, confirmed the supposedly stolen PMS had leaked from the said Station Underground Storage Tank (UST).

The residents stressed that they have in the last couple of years ensured formally or otherwise that all government regulatory bodies as it pertains to the leakage are aware of the pollution.

They are the state’s Ministry of the Environment and Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), State Water Corporation (LSWC), Underground Water Regulation Agency, National Oil Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) and DPR, Lagos Zonal Operations.

“Although, Total Nigeria Plc and the dealer accepted liability during series of their meetings, they expressed worries that they are still suffering and are continued being poisoned.

“The last meeting, the then Commissioner of Environment, Durosinmi-Etti directed that an environmental forensic Audit be undertaken by LASEPA to determine the extent of the pollution , that the petrol filling station be sealed with immediate effect pending the outcome of the environmental forensic audit,

“It was also agreed that all boreholes sunk by Total be immediately decommissioned , while Total was to work directly with the State Water Corporation to ensure that all affected residents are connected to the State Water Grid and ensure the supply of uninterrupted potable water to all affected residents pending when they are connected to the state’s water grid.

“Additionally, Total was also asked to provide the affected residents with suitable water tanks, while the result of the Environmental Forensic Audit (EFA) made available to all stakeholders,” they said.

However, the community said they were perturbed to date as to why the filling station was reopened to business on July 17, 2018 before the report of the EFA was made available to the Akoka Community by pasting some pages of the EFA on the walls of Bariga local council headquarters.

The EFA report that was delivered to LASEPA at the beginning of September 2018 was not made available to the Akoka Community until February 2019 despite several repeated requests.

The affected residents were not notified and neither were they aware of when, where or how the supposed samples for the EFA were obtained, if at all they were collected or obtained from within their community.

The seemingly bogus EFA claimed there was no evidence of PMS in the community’s underground water.

To date, the directive that Total Nigeria Plc provide potable water to the affected residents is being flouted with impunity.

“None of the affected residents is yet to be connected to the state water grid.”

They also alleged that “most of the governmental bodies, they have turned to in their bide to resolve the matter amicably and to help bring an end to their continued exposure to the adverse effects and burden resulting from the pollution caused by Total Nigeria Plc and her cohorts except with the very recent commencement of another EFA for LASEPA seem to have be siding with Total Nigeria without concern for their plight.”

When The Guardian contacted Mr. Charles Ebereonwu, the Country Communications Manager for Total exploration and production, he requested for more time to respond on the issue.

However, at press time, his response was still not available.

But a source told The Guardian that Total at the inception of the matter agreed to do remediation of the area. The company provided fresh water to the affected community through water tanks. But the tanks are now in bad state.

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