Kenya Prisons Commissioner-General Isaiah Osugo has admitted that the main correctional facility in Kisumu has been emitting raw sewage into a river from which residents fetch drinking water.
Mr Osugo toured Kodiaga Maximum Security Prison on Tuesday alongside prisons bosses in Nyanza region.
He admitted that the facility had been emitting raw sewage into River Saka but said they were working on a short term solution that had seen Sh6 million set aside for an upgrade of the disposal system.
The prison uses a sewer system put up in the 1950s but which had been functioning until 2008.
It was originally designed to serve inmates, prison staff and their families.
The prison currently accommodates 3,000 inmates and remandees.
Its sewer system has been overburdened by the addition of Kisumu Medium Security and Kisumu Women's prisons.
Mr Osugo's admission came followed cases of cholera outbreaks.
In July 2017, three prisoners from the facility were taken to hospital after exhibiting symptoms suspected to be of cholera. Thirty nine were later admitted with the disease following an outbreak.
In 2009, 30 inmates at the facility in less than a week after an outbreak of cholera.
“Over the years, we have had cases of cholera in the area. We suspect the river flowing from the prisons could be leading cause of the disease,” said Mr Michael Nyaguti, Magnam Environmental Network Director.
The revelation also came after residents complained to the National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) about the release of waste into neighbouring villages.
Nema Inspector Robert Orena said they had been issuing orders to the prison for appropriate action.
“The major problem is with the by-passes. The lagoons are okay. During the rainy season, the sewer water bypasses the lagoon thus releasing raw sewage into the neighbourhood,” said Mr Orena.
The national government has set aside Sh30 million for long term solutions revolving around repairs.
For now, Mr Osugo said, the Sh6 million will be use for clearing the lagoons, upgrading pipes and fencing.
“We have agreed to upgrade the pipes and construct an inlet, outlet and concrete chambers. Unfortunately, the manual covers were vandalised and this calls for the fencing of prisons,” he said.
“We are going to form a users committee comprising of the prison's officials, Nema, county officials and members of the community," he added.