Water Resources Authority (WRA) has cautioned people who depend on River Kiboko in Makueni County against drinking water from the river as it is contaminated with petroleum products.
This follows the spillage of an unknown quantity of diesel into the area following a puncture on a section of the new Sh48 billion Mombasa-Nairobi oil pipeline.
The water agency declared the water unsafe for drinking on Friday, one month after the spillage was detected, after confirming the presence of grease in multiple shallow wells and water points in the area.
"Following the recent petroleum oil spill from the Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) pipeline about 400 to 500 metres from Kiboko Spring, a precautionary notice is hereby issued to the water users to seek alternative safe water sources pending confirmatory report on the safety of the water," reads the letter signed by the head of WRA in the region, Mr Stephen Munyao.
It is not clear for how long the new pipeline had been leaking before the spillage was detected last month. The repaired area is tucked in a forested area at the source of the seasonal River Kiboko.
“We did not expect a leak on this pipeline since it is only one year old. This was an accident.
"We suspect that the punctured spot was weakened by a boulder dropped by an excavator during the laying of the pipeline,” acting KPC managing director, Hudson Andambi, said a week ago citing preliminary outcomes of studies by the State corporation.
Technicians at KPC have since repaired the pipeline but multiple trenches sunk around the affected area show that the underground water in area has been contaminated with oil.
“Be assured that no more oil will percolates because we have sealed the pipeline. We have embarked on establishing the extent of the leakage and that is why we have sunk the inspection trenches. A contractor will soon come over to map the extent of the oil spillage and the concentration of the oil in the soil and the water sources using specialized technology. We shall then remove all the contaminated soil to Makindu Pump Station because we don’t want it to remain there to continue causing more trouble,” said Mr Andambi.
Water Resources Authority had ordered KPC to clean up the area lest the oil contaminated the springs and the environment.
The move by KPC did not erase doubts on the integrity of the restoration process among the locals with Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior demanding that the process should be led by National Environment Management Authority and that it should involve county government.
The senator, Makueni Water and Environment executive Robert Kisyula, Kibwezi West MP, Patrick Musimba, and the local water users have exerted pressure on KPC to quickly clean up to avert further contamination
The oil spillage comes hot on the heels of another one at Thange River, about 45 kilometres to the South of Kiboko, which was reported three years ago. Whereas compensation of those affected by the spillage is underway, KPC has not succeeded in restoring the affected area.