400 Tons of
Soil Found To Be Contaminated By POPs in Kenya
(Beyond Pesticides, September 21, 2005) A study funded by the United Nations Environmental Program has discovered that two sites in Kitengela, Kenya have been leaking toxic pesticides into the environment. The main site, a Ministry of Agriculture store for obsolete pesticides, was built in 1967 for the storage of pesticides used to control locusts and mosquitoes. The store, which eventually became a dumping ground for pesticides and other toxic chemicals from all over Kenya, is said to be in poor physical condition; failing to meet even the most basic requirements for a chemical store as outlined by the International Trade Association for Manufacturers of Agrochemicals.
The store has been leaking Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) into the surrounding and now almost 400 tons of soil around the store is polluted. POPs pose a big threat as they bioaccumulate through the food web and have been linked to cancer, nervous system damage, and reproductive disorders. POPs also circulate globally through the ocean, air, and other pathways.
By 2000 the store was past its handling capacity and was seeping POPs into the ground through its dirt floor. Although a cement floor was eventually installed it provided only a temporary fix, as the cement has cracked and corroded with time allowing the chemicals to continue spreading.
There is much concern as to the threat such a situation poses for the people in Kitengela. The store is only 50 meters away from a river that is used to water local livestock. Additionally, many people fear that the chemicals will leak into the underground water reserves, which many people depend on due to inadequate surface water in the area.
To try to rectify the problem with the store the Agrochemicals Association of Kenya hired an engineer to get rid of the chemicals. The engineer built an incinerating factory in order to dispose of the hazardous products. This created an entirely new problem as burning the chemicals present at the store releases dioxin into the environment. Exposure to dioxin can lead to cancer as well as weakening of the immune system.
Such irresponsible actions come as a surprise to some as Kenya is a signatory of the Stockholm convention, which requires countries to dispose of POPs safely. In the case of Kenya and other developing nations, it means shipping off the POPs to Europe where they can be disposed of safely. This service is provided free of charge through the African Stockpile Program.