Committed to the restoration of oil polluted sites, the minister of environment, Suleiman Hassan Zarma, has led other senior government officials on a working visit to the United Kingdom for the successful clean-up of Ogoni oil spill.
The trip which was facilitated by the United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP) was to enable the delegates acquire global best practices in the remediation of other sites contaminated by oil pollution across the country. The members of governing council of Hydrocarbon Pollution and Remediation Project (HYPREP) who were part of the tour are expected to visit five sites in the United Kingdom.
These include Biogénie’s Trecatti and Redhill soil treatment facilities in South Wales and South East England respectively, the Coed Darcy regeneration project in South Wales, the former Avenue Coking Works in the East Midlands, and ALS Laboratories in North West England. Biogénie’s Trecatti contaminated soil treatment facility in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales provides clean-up for a variety of contaminants, with special focus on soils impacted by petroleum hydrocarbons.
The facility also operates at a larger scale and could accept a wider range of different types of waste, just as it serves as the main treatment facility for London and the south east. Added to this is that the facility is used for the treatment of soil that would have been disposed as hazardous waste, even as the cleaned-up soil could be re-used for restoration and landscaping. For Redhill, the soil treatment facility revealed how decontamination processes used at other sites could be scaled up.
The Coed Darcy, being one of the largest regeneration project in the United Kingdom was formerly occupied by the BP Llandarcy Oil Refinery until operations ceased in the mid-80s. With the changes, St. Modwen is currently working with Atkins to clean up and redevelop the site in a sustainable way. By 2027, it is expected that the re-developed site would be transformed into a new £1.2 billion urban village that would house around 10,000 people.
With a legacy of coal mining, iron works, and chemical works, Chesterfield’s former Avenue Coking Works in the East Midlands is famous as one of the most heavily contaminated industrial sites in Europe. The site would provide an opportunity for HYPREP’s governing council to witness the redeveloped land. Around three-quarters of the site were restored for open space, community and ecological uses, while the remaining areas were used for residential and commercial purposes.
The visit would also enable the delegates to observe an extensive range of in-situ and ex-situ remediation techniques, such as soil washing, bioremediation, thermal desorption, separating techniques, and among others. It was envisaged that these demonstration and visits would build HYPREP’s capacity to reuse and recycle many site worn out materials, thereby contributing to the sustainability of the clean-up exercise. In addition, the ALS operates as one of the largest laboratories in Europe.
The delegates, expected to visit the Chester laboratory in north- west England would focus on quality, accreditation, sample preparation, analysis of petroleum hydrocarbons, reporting, and interpretation of analysis. During the tour, they are expected to identify the aspects that could be replicated in Nigeria in order to increase the overall quality of indigenous laboratories. UNEP’s 2011 assessment of Ogoniland revealed that bringing back important ecosystems to full productive health could take up to 30 years.
The report had recommended that a $1 billion should be set aside for the first five years of remediation activities. Upon completion, the clean-up of Ogoniland could serve as a model for replication in both Nigeria and the region. Experts had stated that the restoration of Ogoniland initiated by the federal government could prove to be the world’s most complex and longest oil clean-up exercise ever undertaken. This is why UNEP in its 2011 assessment report highlighted the severe and widespread contamination due to oil production spanning several decades.
A statement signed by the director of press in the ministry, Mr Saghir Mohammed, hinted that federal government was determined to implement UNEP recommendations. To this end, President Muhammadu Buhari upon assumption of office in 2015 promised to restore livelihoods in Ogoniland, by establishing HYPREP, an institution under the federal ministry of environment that is tasked with the clean-up process.