By Omolabake Fasogbon

Few months after the reported incident of accidental fuel leakage at Total Filling station in Akoka area of Lagos State, which resulted in pollution of the water sources of some houses in the area, officials of the company have said they have since done all that was necessary to bring the environment to its original state, contrary to reports making the rounds.

Recall that some national dailies, not THISDAY, had earlier reported how some residents complained about being allegedly neglected by the owners of the filling station, despite the environmental and health hazards of the incident. 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 acknowledged to THISDAY the swift and consistent response of the station managers towards the crisis which occurred on August 13, 2017.

Regardless, a resident, Ifeamaka Umeike, expressed dissatisfaction with the effort of the station, complaining that it had not yielded good result.

She told our correspondent that the company claimed to have done remediation but that the area 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.”

However, the company told our correspondent that they took the right steps and that they have also been fair to all since the inception of the crisis till date.

Various documents the manager presented to THISDAY showed the steps the company claimed it took to manage the situation, and how it liaised with relevant stakeholders, including the Akoka Community Development Association, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, 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 a document they identified as the final certification reports declaring the area free and safe from pollution.

In a LASEPA document, sighted by THISDAY, which is dated June 11,2018, the community was declared free of water adulteration arising from petrol leakage from the station’s underground tank, following several tests.

They also presented another document they called proof stratification certificate of conformity, dated September 29, 2017, which indicated that the leakage had been fixed. In addition, the management of the station provided a document which details how they 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 explained that “On August 13th 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 Ltd., commenced remediation exercise 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 exercise. 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 the claim of one of the residents, Ifeamaka Umeike, Maruf denied neglecting the community, stating that “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.”

THISDAY sighted a letter dated 30th August 2017, which according to him, was signed by Ifeamaka Umeike 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.”

Continuing, Maruf 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 house 7000 litres of Geepee tank with a pumping machine taking 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 5kg washing machine that cost 250,000 as against her 3kg type. She came back the second day to thank me and told me I was free.”

However, Ifeamaka denied these allegations, stating that it was Maruf who volunteered to buy her another washing machine to replace the 7kg, not 3kg or 5kg, machine she had, when he could not get a hose that was appropriate for her machine. Regardless, 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, adding that they were interested in making peace with all aggrieved persons, including the lady.

Two landlords confirmed that the environment was now safe. Mr. Razak Odufuwa, who claimed to be the landlord of house No 57, St Finbarrs College Road, Akoka, one of the affected houses, 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 correct the situation. As I speak, 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).”

Also, another landlord, Olusegun Oladipo of No 61, St Finbarrs 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.”