Special Report: How incessant fire outbreak at Olusosun dump site poses serious health risks to Lagosians [Photos]


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Recently, the 47-hectares Olusosun dumpsite in Ojota area of Lagos was engulfed in repeated fire outbreaks that neither the emergency management agencies nor the state government could immediately put-off.

Each time the site is on fire, accusations and counter-accusations fly from different corners; all to the detriment of residents of the area.

A visit to the site last month by Newsclickng.com team when another fire broke out showed that apart from the health hazards, industries and corporate organisations within the axis risk folding up if the state government keep looking the other way.

Aside from the emission of thick smokes from the site whenever there was fire outbreak, the offensive stench that permeates the air on a daily basis is also a cause for worry especially to those resident in that axis.

An environmentalist, David Johnson who bore his mind to Newsclickng.com on the impending dangers the dump site and fire outbreaks pose to the health of residents said the site has outstayed its usefulness and should have been relocated as soon as the area was getting developed. He said what was initially marked out as outskirts is now an integral part of the city and adequate measures must be taken by the government to protect those residing there.

According to him, the incessant fire outbreaks could be as a result of methane gas, which could be harnessed for domestic uses.

The Earth’s atmospheric methane concentration has increased by about 150 percent since 1750, and it accounts for 20 per cent of the total radiative forcing from all of the long-lived and globally mixed greenhouse gases

What is required, he said, is for the Lagos State Government to provide data of waste, which has been buried for a long time at the dumpsite in order to determine the quantity of methane gas present in the soil.

Johnson explained that this could be positively harvested as done in Korea and other advanced countries for domestic uses.

Findings by Newsclickng.com reveal that some residents around the axis suffer from water borne diseases such as typhoid, dysentery, fatigue and cholera. Moreover, some residents have long moved out of the area for fear of contacting these diseases.

One of the residents who identified herself as Mrs. Florence Ayande told Newsclickng.com that the effect of the fire outbreak was minimal compared to the permanent stinky smell that they are subject to daily. She noted that it was important that the government scrap the site or use it for something that would benefit the state rather than endangering the lives of residents who have sunk all their life savings there.

“See the only time people, especially the press remember that the place still exists is when there is fire outbreak. Even without the fire outbreak, our lives are already endangered because the stinking smell is also hazardous to our health. You can’t pass this arena without covering your nose. We can’t freely open our doors and windows because of the smell. And each time we complain, they simply ask us to relocate. How do we do that when we have expended all our life savings here? Do we carry our houses along and what provisions are on ground to relocate or are we on our own as usual? These are some of the questions you pressmen need to put before the state government,” Ayande said.

According to a report by the Indian Journal of Innovations and Development, groundwater quality was investigated around the dumpsite, by collecting nineteen representative water samples from sixteen wells and three boreholes, the result obtained reveals pollution of groundwater in the area.

Nnimmo Bassey, one of Africa’s leading advocates and campaigners for environment and board chairman Friends of the Earth Nigeria posited that  “leachates in the groundwater is bound to occur in such environ. What we have in our cities are not dumpsites, they are just holes where refuse are dumped.

“A dumpsite has to be properly engineered and constructed with waterproof linen. These dumpsites constitute a serious threat to our groundwater. Dumpsites are very heavy polluting sources to the groundwater, soil and air,” Bassey explained.

Another environmental advocate, Uloma Okoro advised the state government to ban scavengers from entering the site while insisting that only government owned agencies should be fully in charge.

“To the best of my knowledge the activities of the scavengers are illegal, and it needs to be curtailed. You don’t even know where they are taking the wastes gotten from the site to, they don’t even know the conditions of the items. The fact that they don’t even use protective poses a big threat to their health,” he said.

A Managing Director of one of the companies around the area shared his experience with Newsclickng.com. “Its been hectic for us. Most of our workers have resigned due to their failing health condition triggered by the stinking smell and incessant fire outbreaks. This has consequentially affected our sales and turn over. We can’t continue like this. We might have to relocate to a safer environment soonest,” he said with a tone of frustration in his voice.

Another public health expert who does not want to be named said government must be proactive in protecting residents by moving the dumpsite from Ojota. He also said scavengers should not be allowed access to the site pending final relocation.

“When wastes degrade, gasses are emitted, as a result of bacteria that are degenerating which emit heat and this, in turn, produce odour”

“People excrete viruses and theses scavengers are exposed to it. They are exposed to several harmful stuffs including blood products, and medical wastes. Something can prick them and they wouldn’t even know what it is, and where it is coming from,” he said.

He added that the health hazard isn’t limited to the scavengers who have direct activities on the site alone, but they could also be carriers of diseases which they could spread to others in their environment.

“Some of the scavengers can contact diseases and transmit it to people living in the environment. Those living in the environment inhale these gases and because the odour and are left with no option but to close their windows cutting off ventilation which in turn endangers their lives. Don’t even forget that some of these scavengers in crowded rooms, making it easy for them to spread diseases,” he explained.

In all their submissions, experts recommended that the Lagos State Government should urgently relocate the dumpsite while also working on providing an alternative source of water supply towards meeting the immediate water needs of inhabitants of the area. This will go a long way in reducing the prevalence of waterborne diseases around area.

However, the Lagos State Government has started capping of the dump site to stop emission of poisonous smoke and fire outbreak at the facility.

Speaking on the project, Director of Environmental Services, Lagos State Ministry of Environment, Dr Iyabo Phillips, said that the capping would last for a month.

Phillips said that the site has been covered with 250 truckloads of laterite every day to ensure that the resurfacing area was completed within a month.

She said that drainage had been constructed around the dumpsite for easy access to the dumpsite to prevent erosion. “We are aware of the impact of the fume on people around, so we had to pull down the fence down in order to control the fume coming out.

“To ensure that lives and properties are protected, all the inhabitants of the area, especially asthmatic patients, have been asked to vacate to enable us to quench the fume.

“The volume of the fume has been reduced,” Phillips said. General Manager, Lagos State Waste Management Authority, Mr Segun Adeniji, said that the capping was undertaken by the state government to drastically reduce fire and smoke from the landfill site.

Adeniji said that government was aware of health hazard of smoke on the people and was making serious effort to stop it immediately. “We are assuring the people living in this area that within a couple of weeks, this will be a thing of the past.”

 

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