A Senate Committee took environment officials to task over the status of a factory that is suspected to be behind lead poisoning in a village in Mombasa.
Members of the Senate committee of health said there were clear indications the factory was still in operation.
This, despite assurances from Nema (the National Environmental Management Agency) officials in Mombasa County that the factory was shut last year following fears over the health risks it posed to locals.
Migori Senator Wilfred Machage said their tour of the facility and enquiries from residents of Owino Uhuru village neighbours indicated there were activities going on in the factory.
“Even the padlock at the godown entrance is still shiny and has no rust. It would have been rusty if indeed this place has been shut down,” said Dr Machage.
Committee chairperson Zipporah Kittony said all Kenyans had a right to better healthcare.
“We need environment and health officials to take responsibility and serve the people, “she said.
Earlier, Mombasa County Nema director Wachira Bore had told the senators that a closure directive was issued last October after the plant failed to adhere to environmental regulations and kept discharging toxic waste.
“We have kept monitoring the factory even at night. As far as we are concerned the facility is closed,” Mr Bore said.
The senators’ fact-finding mission to the village was prompted by a petition tabled in the House by Nominated Senator Emma Mbura on behalf of the residents.
Among the issues lodged in the petition were a request to allow locals take lead poisoning tests, have their homes cleaned and victims compensated.
Changamwe Public Health officer John Ndungu said investigations on suspected toxic discharge from the plant started in 2009.
And after inspection confirmed that the firm was not adhering to the law, it was ordered shut down.
Mombasa County Director of Medical Services Dr Khadija Shikely said samples would be taken from the locals and the environment in the next two weeks for tests.
Suspected cases would be investigated further and if confirmed, provided with specialised treatment in public hospitals.
“The county health sector will pursue the issue so that the directors of the firm settle the medical bills of the victims,” she said.
Dr Shikley urged locals who were examined in 2010 to go for further lead tests to establish the level of poisoning in their bodies.
“The consequences of lead poisoning are long term and it is necessary to carry out tests to know the full extent,” she said.
Ms Celestine Shikhanga, a resident, said her 6-year-old son had undergone several tests which confirmed he was suffering from lead poisoning-related diseases.
“The disease has made the child to be forgetful; sometimes he just collapses. As a result, he is not consistent in attending school,” Ms Shikhanga said.
Centre for Justice Governance and Environmental Action director Phyllis Omido said the community has endured offensive emissions from the factory for many years.