By HSE East Africa | Thursday Sep 7, 2017
Kitui governor Charity Ngilu on Tuesday assured residents of Kitui East particularly those who draw water from the river Thua that she will ensure safe removal of asbestos waste dumped in the Kiongwe hills within the next 10 days.
Ngilu spoke after meeting the owner of the land in which the hazardous waste was buried in which they both resolved to ensure safe disposal of the asbestos within the agreed period. According to Ngilu, the exercise will involve experts authorized to handle hazardous waste to avoid polluting the environment.
The asbestos waste was reportedly buried in the area in March 2017 by Sonata Kenya Limited with authorization from NEMA. Further reports indicate that the approval from NEMA was given without due process considering that the area is a catchment for the Thua River and has a slope of over 60% which makes it unsuitable for disposal of the hazardous materials.
NEMA later issued the company with a cessation and restoration order for asbestos disposal following a site visit by senior officials in June. The Directorate of Criminal Investigations has also instituted charges against the company through one of its directors, Noah Khaemba for breach of disposal license guidelines.
Kenya banned the use of asbestos in 2006 following revelations that prolonged inhalation of thin asbestos could lead to serious respiratory problems, lung cancer and eventually death. There has however been a slow transition in replacing the asbestos used in many buildings prior to the ban. This is attributed partly to inadequate finances and partly to laxity and ignorance among the decision makers.
Disposal of asbestos waste continues to be a major challenge in the country with incidences of illegal dumping of asbestos being reported. In August 2017, a contractor reportedly dumped 20 truckloads of asbestos at the Kang’oki dumpsite in Thika, Kiambu County in contravention of the guidelines for disposal of asbestos waste. This is despite the fact that the Gatuanyaga dumpsite which is the only registered dumpsite for asbestos waste is located a short distance from the Kang’oki site.