• Community lake polluted by oil spill.
  • Shell yet to effect clean up

JK4, otherwise called Edagberi, is the 4th settlement of the Engene people of Joinkrama in Ahoada LGA of Rivers State. Some of its closest neighbours are Akinima [Headquarters of the LGA] and Biseni in Bayelsa State.

JK4 owns over 40 oil wells operated by Shell. The community is faced with environmental hazards occasioned by gas flared from the Adibawa Flow Station and from incessant oil spills in the environment. These oil spills have been attributed to equipment failure as the pipelines are old and rusty. Only recently, some of these pipes laid over forty years ago were replaced along the Adibawa flow line that delivers crude to the Okordia Manifold.

Following report of fresh oil spills, ERA’s field monitors visited JK4 on May 2, 2010. They observed oil slick floating on the Adibawa Lake though its spread was somehow hindered by water weeds and a small boom. Destroyed fishing nets were also noticed in the polluted environment. Community folks say the spill occurred from failure of old rusty pipelines.

The distance between the impacted sites of the lake and the Adibawa Flow Station is about 200 meters yet the sound of the gas flare was very audible.

HON. BONNY OTAVIE: “My community has experienced series of oil spills. They are occurring one after the other and at very short intervals. Though the frequency is high the fact remains that none has been attributed to third party interference in this environment. This fact has always been revealed after a Joint Investigation Visit [JIV] report. Oil spills in JK4 are mainly as a result of equipment failure. The recent oil spills occurred about two months ago. They have polluted our lake, where our people used to catch some of their fish. This lake happens to be one of our major sources of fish. Again, the JIV report indicated that the new spills occurred as a result of equipment failure. The spills occurred along smaller pipes that lead from the oil wells to the Flow Station.

It is sad to note that Shell adopts an unacceptable method of cleaning oil spills here. They set ablaze oil spill impacted sites. About a month ago that was exactly what happened to the other impacted sites. As you move along the JK4- Biseni road you will observe that the whole environment was burnt in the name of cleanup. Since this one has occurred on the lake, I wonder how they will set fire on it.

What we want Shell to do immediately, before the heavy rains start, is to carry out proper cleanup and remediation of the impacted sites. We also look forward to adequate compensation for damages. Besides, the company should carry out a complete replacement of all the pipes laid many years ago; pipes that are very old and have continued to fail. In conclusion I must say my people have suffered and are continuing to suffer from environmental degradation occasioned by these oil spills from old, rusty oil pipes of Shell.”

PRINCE FINEBOY: “I am the Public Relations Officer of the present Caretaker Committee of JK4.What I have to say briefly is that this is our lake, the Adibawa lake. As you can observe, the crude oil has polluted the lake; just see the slick floating. Apart from the Taylor Creek and privately owned ponds, this is the only water resource owned collectively by our people and from which we get fish from time to time. You can even see some fishing nets around the impacted area. If not for the help of the water weeds and that boom, the slick would have spread all over the entire lake. This is why Shell must act fast to ensure that the slick does not go too far before cleanup is done. I want to also suggest that Shell carry out massive replacement of all the pipes in this environment to put an end to or minimize these spills. You can see those pipes heaped there on the ground [pointing], the company wants to replace some of the old pipes, but instead of replacing a few pipes in the ground with new ones, we expect Shell to carry out a holistic exercise of replacing the entire length of the pipelines; not just sections.”

The environmental degradation in JK4 is an avoidable one, especially those occasioned by oil spillage. Shell is culpable in this regard as revealed by JIV reports and testimonies of victims that all the oil spills in the environment are traceable to equipment failure: old rusty pipes that have out-lived their purpose. Even though Shell has initiated steps to replace sections of its pipeline in the area, to forestall further degradation occasioned by oil spills, and for the sake of environmental justice; it is hereby recommended that:

  1. Shell should take full responsibility for all the oil spills in JK4.
  2. As burning of spill sites is not the best practice/option, Shell should stop further degradation of the environment by its setting ablaze of spill impacted sites; which goes further to impact the trees, shrubs and general atmosphere; including dwellings of birds and other animals.
  3. After due consultation with the affected people of JK4, Shell should carry out proper cleanup of the impacted lake and its environs.
  4. In line with the polluter must pay principle, Shell should pay adequate compensation to the victims and carry out remediation and environment audit to ensure the fecundity of the land and water.
  5. The relevant agencies of the Federal and State governments should take positive steps to ensure that the people and environment of JK4 are protected and that Shell behaves responsibly in line with its new Shell principles of corporate social responsibility.
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