April 16, 2013

Oil Waste Accumulates As Firms Mess up Treatment and Disposal

Tullow oil workers.
Tullow oil workers.

Oil companies continue to pile waste generated during the oil drilling exercises conducted over the past years without treating and disposing it, which has raised health and environmental concerns. The accumulating oil waste places the health of the community and the environment in the various exploration areas in danger of developing complications associated with exposure to untreated waste.

Dr. Chris Bakuneeta, a Lecturer at Makerere University’s Department of Biological Sciences says that by nature oil waste is unable to decompose, which makes it harmful to the ecosystem.
In Buliisa district, oil companies have been piling the untreated oil waste since they exploration activities begun in the area a few years ago. Heaps of the mud cuttings from the oil wells lie on the ground covered with plastic sheath while the liquid oil wastes is kept in both open and covered pits with concrete lining. While at other oil sites such as in Nwoya district, the waste is stored in a container. Tom Okurut, the Executive Director of National Environment Management Authority-NEMA, explains that the oil companies are responsible for managing the waste they produce.

However, since 2012 when NEMA licensed the companies to manage oil waste, none of the oil companies comprising CNOOC, Total and Tullow have treated and disposed the waste they have generated.
Naomi Karekaho, the spokesperson of NEMA confirmed to Redpepper Online that none of the oil companies operating in Uganda has yet contracted an oil waste manager despite the fact that it is mandatory.

Last week, Tullow, one of the leading oil exploration firms said it was seeking to recruit Ugandan registered firms that are able to provide Waste Management Services to support its operation within Exploration Area 2 in the areas of Butiaba and Kaiso Tonya in Buliisa and Hoima districts respectively. The company said the contractor would collect and transport waste such as used oil, oil contaminated liquids and solids. Other duties it said would involve transporting and handling drilling waste such as drill cuttings and fluids, used mud, drilling chemicals and chemical residue.

A list of the companies that NEMA has licensed to store hazardous waste include CNOOC Uganda Limited, Epilson and Hariss International meanwhile Green Label, Eco Projects and Epilson.

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