Monday, October 11, 2010

Experts tackle chemical spill at Kilindini

By GITONGA MARETE, gmarete@ke.nationmedia.com

Environmental experts on Monday spent the day scooping out sand at the spot where a highly corrosive chemical spilled at the port of Mombasa.

At least 102 of the 339 cans of nitric acid were found leaking after they were offloaded from a ship more than two weeks ago at berth number 14. The acid, in 25-litre cans, were in a container imported from China.

It was not clear whether the leak was as a result of mishandling at the time of offloading.

To contain the acid, workers from the port’s pollution department sprinkled sand and soda on the affected area to prevent the chemical from flowing into the ocean.

The National Environment Management Authority (Nema) called experts from Nairobi to manage the situation. A team of experts from Environmental & Combustion Consultants Ltd, a hazardous waste management company, Monday scooped out all the material believed to have come into contact with the chemical.

“Since there are no facilities here, the material will be taken to Nairobi, where the experts will dispose of it in special acid incinerators,” said Mr Benson Wemali, the Nema officer in charge of compliance and enforcement in Mombasa.

According to Kenya Ports Authority public relations manager Bernard Osero, the experts put all the cans into a new container which they were to move from the port on Monday.

The spillage had raised concern among port players, with the employees saying they had been forced to stay away from work. They complained of the stench from the acid.

Two years ago, a woman claimed she miscarried after inhaling a chemical that had been disposed of near Changamwe.