Residents in the coastal settlements of Ogboinbiri and neigbouring communities of the Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State say they are groaning under the “heavy weight of oil spill” in their area.
The oil leak from Seibou Deep facility, said to be operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company, has been discharging crude into Ogboinbiri River for close to a month.
The residents in the coastal settlements said the spill had damaged fishing activities of the people.
Some residents, who depend on the river for drinking and domestic use, said after the leak continued unabated for over a month, they were forced to resort to drinking sachet water, popularly called pure water.
A visit to the spill site revealed that the surface of the river was covered by crude deposits flowing down the waterway.
Communities worst hit by the incident are Keme-Ebiama, Apoi, Kokologbene, Gbaruan, Ukubie and Lobia.
It was learnt that many other communities along Ogboinbiri River bank had also been affected, with the water current aiding the discharge of the crude oil.
Chairman, Community Development Committee, Keme-Ebiama community, Chief Columbus Johnbull, said, “This spill started a long time ago like a small leak but has turned into a serious issue by February 15 at the Seibou 2 facility of Shell at Ogboinbiri.
“The spill first affected the river in the Ogboinbiri area before spreading to other communities; the volume of crude oil is really heavy.
“Our people can no longer go to the river to take their bath or fetch drinking water.
“Due to the heavy pollution and the resultant scarcity of drinking water, the cost of sachet water in the community has risen from N10 to N30.”
He said there was fear in the communities because there had been an outbreak of cholera which claimed the lives of some people.
Johnbull urged Shell authorities to take responsibility for the incident and dispatch medical teams to forestall outbreak of epidemics in the area.
He also urged the oil firm to compensate communities and individuals affected by the oil leak.
A resident of Apoi, who gave his name only as Perekeme, also said the spill had dealt a devastating blow to them
Bayelsa State Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Iniruo Wills, said plans were underway to respond to the challenges in the communities.
Spokesman for SPDC, Mr. Joseph Obari, said the firm had yet to conduct a Joint Investigation Visit to the spill site to determine the veracity of the communities’ claim.