The communities affected by the recent large oil spill from a non-producing wellhead near OML 29 in the Santa Barbara oilfield in Bayelsa State are still in pain and misery.
The Aiteo Exploration and Production Company operates the oilfield in Bayelsa State’s Nembe Local Government Area.
The leak was said to have happened on November 1, but Aiteo, an indigenous oil company, examined the site five days later and officially reported it nine days later, stating that “the magnitude of this incident is of an extremely high order”.
It further stated that containment booms would be deployed to begin crude recovery near the wellhead. However, for the past 34 days, the wellhead has been releasing crude.
Because the booms are not effective enough to prevent oil from penetrating wide into the marine environment, the spilt petroleum is spreading to neighbouring streams and rivulets, as well as running unabated towards settlements in neighbouring Rivers State and the Atlantic Ocean in significant volumes.
The flow is supported by the ebbing tide and current of the Santa Barbara River, which ebbs and returns to full tide, according to sources.
The spilt crude has flooded the vast mangrove swamp and farmlands, depositing a massive amount of hydrocarbon along the Santa Barbara River and damaging the mangrove roots.
As a result, aquatic life such as periwinkle, crabs, fish, oysters, and crayfish, among others, will be wiped out to a large extent.
Furthermore, the substantial quantity of crude has contaminated and damaged all fishing traps and nets installed at strategic sites by fishermen prior to the occurrence.
The residents’ livelihoods have been severely harmed as a result of the leak.