The remediation by the Akoka, Lagos Total filling station management in fixing its underground tank, which leaked fuel that polluted residents’ water sources last year, has received commendations from government agencies and residents. They praised the firm’s management for its swiftness in addressing the leakage. However, a resident seems not happy and complains about the job which he describes as unsatisfactory. But the management of the filling station sees the complaint as an effort to sabotage its determination to make the area better than it was before the incident.
Few months after the reported incident of an accidental fuel leakage at Total filling station in Akoka, Lagos State, which resulted in contamination of the water sources of some houses, Total officials said they have since carried out a thorough remediation and fixed all that was necessary to bring the environment to its original state.
The document obtained from Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) and the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), dated June 15, noted that contamination of water due to petrol leakage from the station’s underground tank was cleared. Some landlords in the area said the community was free from any form of contamination, praising the swift response of the management of the filling station after the leakage was reported.
Three landlords confirmed that the environment was safe. One of them, Mr. Razak Odufuwa, who claimed to be the landlord of No. 57, St Finbarrs College Road, Akoka, whose house was affected, admitted that there was an incident but commended the reaction of the company, which he said, acted swiftly to mitigate the effect.
“Initially, when the incident occurred, our water was contaminated and unsafe to drink or for any other domestic purposes. The station was the first to alert us; they disconnected all the water sources and gave us alternative source of water while they corrected the situation. They have corrected the situation, dug a new borehole in my house and I now have clean water as you can see (drinking water from the tap),” Odufuwa said.
Another landlord, Olusegun Oladipo, of No. 61, St Finbarrs College Road corroborated Odufuwa’s claim, adding that the company responded beyond their expectations as their situation was now better than how it was before the incident. “We now have new borehole with cleaner water supporting the government’s commissioned water system,” he added.
Similarly, another landlord explained that the situation has become a blessing in disguise, saying: “For sure, we were affected by the leak from their underground tank, but the situation has landed us several bore-holes with cleaner water supporting government’s commissioned water system.
“Any accusation against the company is purely malicious and has no basis because the company has done all that was required by law to do and more for us. As such, we are grateful for their swift action to contain the incident and provide an additional water system for the community of Akoka.”
Reports from various expert agencies, presented by the managers, indicated that the community can now go about their daily business without fear or concern. Besides, some dwellers in the area also confirmed to The Nation the swift and consistent response of the station managers towards the crisis, which occurred last August 13.
However, a resident, Ifeamaka Umeike, expressed dissatisfaction with the effort of the station, complaining that it had not yielded good result. According to her, the company claimed to have done remediation, but the area, she said, was still polluted.
“All we are saying is that the filling station should exhume and evacuate its fuel tank and replace it with new ones because the tank is still leaking,” she added.
However, the station said that the right steps were taken and they have also been fair to all since the inception of the crisis till date.
Documents obtained confirmed the steps the company said it took to manage the situation, and how it liaised with relevant stakeholders, including the Akoka Community Development Association, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency, LASEPA, National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and Bariga Police station in the remediation process.
They also presented the final certification reports declaring the area free and safe from pollution.
In LASEPA’s documentation, dated June 11, the community was declared free of water adulteration arising from petrol leakage from the station’s underground tank, following several tests.
They also presented a proof stratification certificate of conformity, dated September 29, last year, which indicated that the leakage had been fixed. In addition, the management of the station provided a document, which detailed how the management of the station held several meetings with government agencies and landlords in the area where it was formally resolved that the station should provide the affected houses with alternative source of water, conduct medical evaluation of residents of affected houses in recognised government hospitals, as well as provide affected houses with new boreholes.
The dealer of Total Service Station, Akoka, Mr. Aleem Maruf, admitted that there was indeed, fuel leakage in the station premises, but disagreed with the claim that the community was neglected.
He said: “On August 13, 2017, we discovered that there was fuel leakage in one of our underground tanks after we realised that 600 litres of petrol was missing. Immediately, we notified Total headquarters and our station at Apapa, which swung into action without delay.
“We started by disconnecting all the water sources immediately. The situation was appropriately reported to Bariga police station after which we alerted and invited all stakeholders including officials of the LASEMA, LASEPA and DPR. They all toured the community and took samples from houses to determine affected areas as well as extent of damage. By the end of the investigation, it was discovered that seven houses including the station were affected.
“Having done this, an agency, Terra Aqua Environmental Consultancy Limited, commenced remediation, which started right from the station. We were advised by LASEPA to get tank for all the affected houses and supply them water regularly for the period of the remediation. We bought Geepee tank of 2000 litres capacity for all affected houses and supplied them with government approved water four times in a week to ensure that they don’t lack water. We also made provision for medical check-up to be carried out at their convenience.
“By May 2018, the affected areas were declared free from pollution, hence, it was confirmed safe to drill new boreholes. As instructed by LASEPA, we have dug four boreholes while the 5th one is due for completion.”
Reacting to Ifeamaka Umeike’s claim, Maruf denied neglecting the community, stating: “On the day the sad incident broke, the lady in question was not around, she came back two weeks after we had cleared the environment and done the needful by law. However, remediation exercise was still ongoing. She commended the station on the efforts taken so far and this is glaring in a letter she wrote to us.”
The Nation saw the letter dated August 30, last year where she (Ifeamaka) applauded the company’s swift action, stating: “I have to applaud the fact that they (Total station dealer) swung into action quickly. They provided affected residents with tanks of water, which they replenish periodically. While the filling station is quite responsive, I am yet to see any action taken by Total Nigeria Plc.”
Maruf also alleged that “she came back to complain that her pipe connections has been polluted. And I wondered how that could have happened because I had disconnected all the pipes in the affected areas when the leak was discovered while she was away. But I heeded and changed all her pipes again. Note that while other houses have 2000 litres of Geepee tank, I gave her (Ifeamaka’s) house 7000 litres of Geepee tank with pumping machine that takes water directly to her apartment to fulfill her desires’’.
“Three days after, she came back to my office and asked me to change her washing machine hose, which she claimed got contaminated by the leakage. Without arguing, I set out for a new hose but she was discontented with eight different hoses I brought, insisting they did not fit her washing machine. She eventually requested for a new washing machine and asked me to get her a 7kg washing machine that cost N250,000 as against her 3kg type. She came back the second day to thank me and told me I was free,” Maruf said.
Nonetheless, Maruf said: “She was doing all this after the remediation has been certified okay by the agency in charge. As a matter of fact, we have started digging boreholes, so far, we have dug boreholes in four houses, and the fifth one is ongoing. But she refused to let us dig in her apartment, but we eventually dug it with the intervention of security personnel.
“However, she still complained that the water is not neat, whereas, water from other houses where we dug the same borehole had no issue, so we suspected she was sabotaging our efforts, especially considering the fact that there is a government borehole in the same house producing potable water.”
Maruf also explained what led to the fuel leakage, as well as steps taken to avert future occurrence.