11 February 2017, Sweetcrude, Port Harcourt — THE residents of Port Harcourt in oil-rich River state, South-south Nigeria are currently experiencing a new wave of environmental pollution following the invasion of their city by cancer-causing soot.
Soot is a cancer-causing particle in the atmosphere linked to oil exploration and gas flaring in the Niger Delta region of the country. it is also a general term that covers pollutants derived from the incomplete or inefficient burning of fossil fuels or biomass – plants or plant-based materials used as source of energy.
The major sources of soot include fuels like diesel used in transport and in electricity generators. For the Niger Delta, the sources include the aforementioned and include others such as: gas flares, illegal refineries, the burning of illegal refineries and crude oil, burning of oil spills by incompetent contractors and the burning of sundry wastes. Bush burning can also be a source of soot in our environment.
Residents who spoke to a news media said their vehicles and washed clothes are now dotted by this poisonous substance just as some people have also fallen ill due to the effect of the spots.
Emmanuel Gawa, a resident in the city said that the soot was first observed in October 2016 adding that it has become a major source of worry for people of the city. The state branch of the Nigerian Medical Association has advised residents to close their windows and doors, mop the floor of their houses and possibly wear face masks
Efforts to ascertain the government’s efforts at finding solutions to the pollution were fruitless as officials of relevant agencies like the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), Nigerian National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Directorate of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and the Federal and State Ministries of Environment declined comments.
It may be recalled that in October 2016 when reports of the gathering soot came up, NESREA officials confirmed that the soot originated from hydrocarbon or oil-sector related sources, ruling out bush burning as a possible source. For residents that may have noticed the thick black smoke belching continuously from the Port Harcourt refineries, those sources are very strong suspects.
Meanwhile, a Chinese company earlier fingered as a source of the soot in Port Harcourt has been shut down and the state government has just set up a task force comprising experts from Ministries of Environment and Health and professionals to resolve issues around the soot and its source.
A report of the analysis on soot as monitored by an interview granted a radio station by the Commissioner of Environment Rivers state:
– Sample collected from Abuloma area and Peter Odili area of PH
– Sample collected in two-time frames; 12midnight – 6am and 6am – 8am
– Date of collection of sample 23rd December 2016
Particulate Matter Size;
– Average of 270 micron/m3 for Abuloma & Peter Odili area between 12midnight – 6am
– Abuloma area 6am -8am; 125 micron/m3
– Peter Odili area 6am -8am; 62 micron/m3
Acceptable size is 25 micron/m3
– Additive for making tyres
– Nickel – high
– Lead – Low
Test shows that the soot is petroleum based as a result of incomplete combustion of petroleum products
Suspected source of soot:
– Petro-Chemical companies
– Activities of Illegal refineries
– Gas flaring
– Burning of tyre (to access copper embedded in the tyres)
The Rivers State government can not, for now, ascertain which of the above activities or any company or group of persons responsible for the soot. This is what the Tax force set up by the government is to achieve.
The report as monitored indicates that the activity mainly takes place at night which may indicate that the source of the soot will likely be from an illegal activity.