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Oil well in Bayelsa leaks crude oil onto marshes, farmlands

The Spill site at Worikuma-Kiri off Nembe-Bassambiri in Bayelsa State. Picture- Alambo Datonye

Massive volumes of crude oil and gas are being spilt into wetlands, farmlands, and the Santa Barbara River, following a leak from an oil well in the Oil Mining Licence 29 Southwest field in Bayelsa State’s Nembe Local Government Area.

The incident in the Creeks of Worikuma-Kiri, off the Opu-Nembe-Bassambiri, resulted in huge pollution of the river, waterways, and settlements.

The operators of the NNPC/Aiteo Joint Venture of OML 29, Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company (AEEPCO), say they have started a comprehensive spillage control response in addition to sending relief supplies to the impacted areas.

Experts say an estimated 100,000 barrels of crude has been discharged into the waters since the blowout.

A visit to the spill site in the Creeks, about 35 minutes by speedboat from Opu Nembe, revealed a loud noise from a failed Christmas Tree structure atop the ruptured wellhead, with crude oil and gas effluents gushing with alarming speed, spraying pollutants into the canopy of mangroves, crops, swamps, and the Santa Barbara River.

Worikuma-Kiri, Arrow-Kiri, Adamata Kiri, Sunny-Kiri one and two, Sand Sand village have been particularly hard hit, as dark and thick yellowish substances suspected to be crude oil float along the river into the Atlantic Ocean, leaving dead fish floating.

Chief, Worikuma Ivory-Degi elect, the landlord of Worikuma-Kiri, which hosts the wellhead, said the leakage has ruined his farm and property.

Mr. Alagoa Morris, Head of the Environmental Rights Action Bayelsa Field Office, said in addition to the health risks posed by the spills, sources of livelihood have been lost, and he urged the company to urgently find a solution to the spill.

A national disaster

Chief Nengi James, the second National Vice President of the Ijaw National Congress, wants the government to designate the spill a National Disaster.

Locals and fishermen in the affected towns told Radio Nigeria that the leak has caused them immense misery.

In response, Mr Ndiana Matthew, spokesman for AEEPCO, operator of the Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29, said the company was containing the spill and has called for a Joint Inspection visit to determine the cause.

Experts say there is a need to deploy sufficient oil spill containment and cleanup equipment and personnel to contain spilt hydrocarbon pollution.

Reporting by Alambo Datonye, Editing by Daniel Adejo