An oil leak from Seibou Deep facility operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company has been discharging crude into Ogboinbiri River in Bayelsa.
Residents of the coastal settlements in Ogboinbiri and neigbouring communities say the oil leak has damaged the fishing activities of the people.
Some residents who depend on the river for drinking and domestic use say the leak has continued unabated for over a month, compelling them to resort to water sold in sachets.
A correspondent who visited the site of the spill saw that the surface of the river was covered by crude deposits flowing down the waterways.
Keme-Ebiama, Apoi, Kokologbene, Gbaruan, Ukubie, Lobia communities are the worst hit.
It was gathered that several communities along Ogboinbiri River bank have also been affected, with the water current aiding the dispersal of the crude oil.
The Chairman of the Community Development Committee of Keme-Ebiama community, Columbus John-Bull, said the spill has deprived them of their source of water for drinking and domestic use.
“This major spill started a long time ago like a small leak but turned to a serious issue by 15 February at the Seibou 2 facility of Shell at Ogboinbiri.
“The spill first affected rivers in the Ogboinbiri axis before spreading to other communities; the volume of crude oil was really heavy. It covered the whole of our river.
“It was so devastating that our people could no longer go to the river and take their bath or fetch drinking water.
“Due to the heavy pollution and resultant scarcity of drinking water, the cost of water sachet in the community rose from N10.00 to N30.00.
“Most of our people cannot afford the sachet water at that price.
“We are very much worried of what the situation might lead to considering the recent outbreak of cholera in some communities in the local government area,” John-Bull said.
The community leader urged the management of SPDC to take responsibility for the incident and dispatch relief materials and medical team to forestall a breakout of epidemic in the area.
He also urged the oil firm to compensate communities and individuals impacted by the oil leak for the losses they incurred as a result of the incident.
The Bayelsa Commissioner for Environment, Iniruo Wills, confirmed the development when contacted and said plans were underway to respond to the challenges faced by the coastal communities.
Mr. Wills said the Bayelsa Ministry of Environment has summoned officials of the oil firm to a meeting on March 3 (today)
“In the meantime we are asking all parties to do everything necessary to ensure quick containment and clean up,” Mr. Wills said.
“The Bayelsa state government through the Ministry of Environment and other relevant agencies will be taking steps that will ensure severe sanctions for oil pollution, whoever the culprits.”
The spokesman for SPDC, Joseph Obari, said the firm is yet to conduct a joint investigation visit on the spill site.
He also said the oil firm is yet to issue a statement on the incident.