The Kenya Pipeline Company and National Environment Management Authority have been ordered to start cleaning up a contaminated river in two weeks.
Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter issued the directive on Tuesday after touring the River Thange in Kibwezi East where a punctured pipeline spilt oil into the environment.
In May last year, residents found traces of petroleum products in the river and informed Kenya Pipeline Company, which repaired the leak.
However, the oil had permeated the soil and soon it was detected in wells, resulting in local leaders warning residents against using the water or eating fruits and vegetables from the area.
Mr Keter, though terming the spill an accident, criticised the slow pace at which the two organisations were moving to remedy the situation.
“You have two weeks to start cleaning the oil mess,” a tough talking Mr Keter told KPC interim managing director Joe Sang and Nema Director-General Geoffrey Wahungu, who were present together with area Governor Kivutha Kibwana, Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior and MP Jessica Mbalu.
The oil company is already supplying residents of six villages in the area with clean water in tanks.
It also commissioned a study on the impact of the oil spill on the environment, people’s health and that of their livestock but residents have disputed its findings.
According to the study, the oil spill extends 2,600 metres downstream from the leak.
LIKELY TERMINAL DISEASES
“From the outcome of the study, the presence of Benzyll and hydrocarbons could cause terminal diseases in future,” said Prof Kibwana while Mr Kilonzo Jnr threatened to take the oil firm to court.
The residents claimed the spill had affected their livelihoods and urged leaders at the meeting to ensure that KPC compensated them and cleaned up the environment.
“Everybody will be compensated according to the law,” Mr Keter assured the residents.
Meanwhile, the CS directed the Rural Electrification Authority to ensure all primary schools in the country were connected before the end of this month.
He said the programme will be extended to secondary schools and market centres.