Clean Soil, Wheelbarrows, Officials…Latest on Nigerian Lead Removal

Reporting in before the holiday break, John Keith, Blacksmith Institute’s on-scene project manager at the Zamfara, Nigeria, lead contamination remediation project, says landfills have been construction at all five villages in the original project scope and clean soil brought to all villages as well. “Clean soil placement has become a critical path item to finish at every village,” he noted, adding, “It takes a lot of soil and a lot of effort to get it to where it is needed.”

Blacksmith, in partnership with Terragraphics Environmental Engineering, is collaborating with local authorities and paying villagers to help with lead cleanup in villages of northwest Nigeria, where more than 20,000 people, including nearly 5,000 children, were found to have life-threatening lead levels in their blood. Miners from the villages had brought back rocks containing gold ore, not knowing the ore also contained lead. When the ore was crushed inside homes, lead-contaminated dust spread everywhere, killing hundreds of children and sickening thousands.

The Blacksmith/Terragraphics team is digging up lead-laden soil, taking it to landfill sites which are then sealed, bringing in clean soil replacement, and clearing compounds of lead-laden dust. Remediation work at Abare and Tungar Guru is complete with only landfill closure remaining, Keith reported. Work in Sunke is in “full swing” but because of extended contamination, significantly more resources have been required, including seven excavation crews and over a hundred laborers and supervisors. Completion of all but one compound interior excavation was done before the break; and external area excavation, clean soil placement, cement and finishing work is planned in the new year, expected to require several weeks.

Remediation work is nearing completion as well in Tungar Daji, although like Sunke, some compounds needing excavation are likely to remain for early January. At Duza, contamination was comparatively light so work has proceeded swiftly with only a small amount awaiting return from the holidays.

Then there are complications like wheelbarrow breakdowns. A reliable welder has been found and 26 wheelbarrows repaired with more in process. “We now have enough to finish work next year at all villages,” he commented.

Also, the Emir of Anka has returned from the Hajj and “a good discussion” was held with him about work progress and other issues. And the Anka Local Government Authority “supports our activities and has cooperated well,” Keith said, providing accommodations for Ministry of Environment managers as well as assisting with recruitment of village workers and supervisors.

By mid-February, the Blacksmith/Terragraphics team will have remediated seven villages—and is seeking funding to continue the work in 2011.

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