The Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) on Thursday confirmed an oil leak incident from its underwater line within its oil fields in Bayelsa.
According to a statement issued by Joesph Obari, Spokesperson for the oil firm, the leakage was reported on January 23, 2015, and the company subsequently shut the facility.
A site visit however showed that residual leak from Seibou Deep facility operated by SPDC, has been discharging crude into Ogboinbiri River in Bayelsa.
“A spill was detected from an underwater flow line riser at the Seibou 2 Wellhead in the night of January 23, 2015,” the statement said.
“The well was closed-in about fifteen hours later, once it was safe to do so and the impacted area boomed off to prevent further spread of the spill.
“ A Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) has been conducted, but it only determined the quantity of oil spilled and mapped the area of impact to the environment.
“A follow up JIV is being planned to lift the line from underwater and determine the cause of leak.”
Residents of the coastal settlements in Ogboinbiri and neigbouring communities say the oil leak had damaged the fishing activities of the people.
Some residents, who depend on the river for drinking and domestic use, say the leak had continued unabated for over a month, compelling them to resort to sachet water.
On Wednesday, our reporter visited the spill site and observed that the surface of the river was covered by crude deposits flowing down the waterways.
Keme-Ebiama, Apoi, Kokologbene, Gbaruan, Ukubie, Lobia communities were the worst hit.
It was gathered that several communities along Ogboinbiri River bank have also been affected; with the water current aiding the dispersal of the crude oil.
Columbus John-Bull, Chairman of the Community Development Committee (CDC) of Keme-Ebiama community, said that the spill had deprived them of their source of water for drinking and domestic use.
“This major spill started a long time ago like a small leak but has turned a serious issue by 15 February at the Seibou 2 facility of Shell at Ogboinbiri.
“The spill first affected rivers in the Ogboinbiri axis before spreading to other communities; the volume of crude oil was really heavy. It covered the whole of our river.
“It was so devastating that our people could no longer go to the river and take their bath or fetch drinking water.
“Due to the heavy pollution and resultant scarcity of drinking water, the cost of water sachet in the community rose from N10.00 to N30.00.
“Most of our people cannot afford the sachet water at that price.
“We are very much worried of what the situation might lead to considering the recent outbreak of cholera in some communities in the local government area,” John-Bull said.
The community leader therefore urged the management of SPDC to take responsibility for the incident and dispatch relief materials and medical team to forestall breakout of epidemic in the area.
He also urged the oil firm to compensate communities and individuals impacted by the oil leak for the losses they incurred as a result of the incident.
Iniruo Wills, Bayelsa Commissioner for Environment, also confirmed the development and said plans were underway to respond to the challenges faced by the coastal communities.
Mr. Wills explained that the Bayelsa Ministry of Environment has summoned officials of the oil firm to a meeting to map out plans to mitigate the spill impact.
“We have invited Shell for a meeting on Tuesday to deal with this spill. In the meantime we are asking all parties to do everything necessary to ensure quick containment and clean up.
“The Bayelsa state government through the Ministry of Environment and other relevant agencies will be taking steps that will ensure severe sanctions for oil pollution, whoever the culprits,” Mr. Wills said.