Fears as fuel leaks jolt Sh50b pipeline project

Some of dug shallow trenches filled with oil at Kiboko water catchment area, Makueni County where oil spill occurred on March 30 along the newly opened 48 Billion Mombasa-Nairobi Kenya Pipeline. [File, Standard]

The Sh51 billion Mombasa-Nairobi oil pipeline was perhaps one of Jubilee administration’s most controversial projects after the Standard Gauge Railway.

Barely in operation, the 450km line has burst and brought misery to residents of Kiboko in Kibwezi. Residents of Thange, also in Kibwezi, are smarting from a similar leakage from the old line it was replacing.

Projected as Kenya’s solution to perpetual oil leaks and inefficiencies, the line is described in a video posted at Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) website as “a grand plan for the nation,” one that has an ingrained “modern pipeline monitoring technology.”  

When KPC Acting Managing Director Hudson Andambi and his team trooped to the area on Friday, it was a familiar story of profuse apologies, promises and long explanations issued by his predecessors. He claimed it was an accident even as local leaders called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to visit the site.

“I apologise. It was not intentional, we have done our best in ensuring oil-filled trenches are cleaned,” he said.

Mr Andambi said they had dug 42 shallow trenches and found three full of oil, 32 with small traces of oil and 6 with zero traces. He said the company has been mapping and carrying out analysis of soil in the area.

And SGS, a Swedish company has been engaged on soil investigation, cleaning and remediation.

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“We have additional tankers and dredgers so that the leaked diesel and petrol is prevented from spreading to the water catchment area,” the MD said.

The oil spill attracted the attention of Water Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui who also visited the site on Friday. He announced that a task force had been set up to deal with the matter.

The task force will comprise Water Resources Authority, KPC, officials from Ministry of Water, the Makueni County government and Ministry of Petroleum.

To ensure good relations with locals, Mr Chelugui called on KPC to adopt a health facility at Kiboko as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

“Machinery should be added to prevent further spread of oil to the wetland,” the CS said.

On sampling and texting of the hydrocarbons that might have contaminated the water source, the CS said they will conduct a joint water testing that will involve all the concerned parties.

During the visit, KPC said the cause of the leakage was a regrettable “oversight.”

Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana, who was also present during the fact-finding mission called on KPC, to provide alternative water source.

“KPC must provide clean water for domestic use. Although we have started trucking water to the people but we will hand over the bills to them,” Prof Kibwana said.

He said the pollution might have spread to approximately 18km from the springs downstream.

“This pollution affects an approximate of 18km downstream and we have said that Thange and Kiboko issue must be dealt with well,” he added.

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Mombasa-NairobiOil pipelineStandard Gauge RailwayKPC