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Sinai: NEMA puts Pipeline on the spot

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 15 – The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) now says it will take action against the Kenya Pipeline Company for failing to put in place mitigation measures, leading to the oil spillage that caused a massive fire in Sinai slum in Nairobi on Monday.

NEMA said the Kenya Pipeline Company is squarely to blame for the disaster because it failed to observe environmental regulations, including clearing the wayleave of any human settlement.

“Enforcement action against KPC for non-compliance to EMCA 1999 and other environmental regulations will be instituted,” NEMA’s acting Director General Dr Ayub Macharia said in a statement.

The authority said Kenya Pipeline has not been carrying out annual Environmental Impact Assessment and audits to establish the status of their oil pipes, leading to the leakage that caused the Monday morning disaster.

“NEMA further wishes to state that if pre-requisite spill containment measures at the facility had been put in place, the product would not have gotten in to the surface runoff drains,” he added.

More than 100 people were killed when they rushed to scoop fuel after a pipeline leakage that spilled fuel into Sinai slum causing a massive fire.

At least 117 others are still admitted to the Kenyatta National Hospital with varied degrees of burns, many of them serious after they were rescued from the scene.

“If human settlements had been removed from the wayleave in the Sinai area, the incidences of human casualties and the magnitude of environmental damage would have been minimal,” Dr Macharia said after receiving a report by NEMA’s experts who have been investigating the matter.

The government has vowed to fully investigate the matter to establish the root cause of the problem, although the pipeline company maintains it is not to blame.

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On Tuesday, Kenya Pipeline Company Managing Director Selest Kilinda claimed he dispatched adequate personnel immediately there was a spillover of fuel, but did not explain why the company had watched for years as slum dwellers encroached on oil pipelines.

“We do not take responsibility for the fire and the accident that happened after the spillage. We did our best to stop the fire from ravaging the property and the lives of the people and therefore we do not take responsibility,” he told a media conference as pressure mounted for the firm to state its position on the matter.
Kilinda argued that that the situation could have been catastrophic had his personnel not reacted as fast as they did.

According to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental Audit (EA) Regulations 2003 all petroleum handling facilities among others are required to undertake EIAs for new facilities and annual EA’s for existing facilities.

The EIAs and EAs are the ones that show mitigation measures put in place by factories and other industries to handle the risk of pollution which may arise from leaks and spills as well as system failures.

“NEMA has not received an environmental audit of the current KPC facility and therefore cannot ascertain the adequacy of mitigation measures within the facility,” the NEMA boss said, dismissing the pipeline company’s claims that its operations were above board.

NEMA’s regulations require that such organisations clear settlement near riparian areas, petroleum pipeline, power lines, sewer lines, railways, petroleum depots and relevant infrastructure is discouraged.

The Kenya Pipeline said it had over 21 million litres of fuel in their Nairobi station at the time of the incident, raising fears that the disaster could have been worsened were it not for the quick response from fire fighters.
An investigation report by the Kenya Pipeline and other government agencies is due in two weeks time.

Soon after the disaster on Monday, Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi announced that the oil company would compensate all the victims, but the pipeline boss has contradicted him, insisting that they will not take responsibility.

Multiple interviews with residents of the Sinai slum revealed that they have been staying there for more than twenty years.

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“I have stayed here since my children were small and now they have all married and they have their own children, how can I move from this place?” one resident Alfred Wafula who runs a food kiosk in the slum said.

Following the Monday incident, NEMA said it had directed the Kenya Pipeline to undertake risk assessments for all its facilities as well as an environmental audit of the pipeline from Mombasa to the last point of conveyance clearly indicating which sections will be given priority in replacement, mitigation measures put in place to ensure no leakages, spills or pipeline failure occur as well as the measures put in place while awaiting construction of a parallel line.

“NEMA has also issued restoration orders to KPC to restore the degraded environment especially the flora and fauna along the river as well as the contaminated soil,” the statement from the authority said.

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