A large number of people living along the Chemu Lagoon in Tema besieged the water body at dawn on Monday and skimmed off its surface large quantities of diesel which had spilled into the lagoon from a leaking Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) pipeline.
When the Daily Graphic got to the banks of the lagoon, adults and children were skimming diesel from the surface of the highly polluted lagoon into plastic and metal containers.
Others were using foam as improvised sieves to separate water from the diesel and selling the oil to motorists at ¢10,000 a gallon.
This is the second such spillage of oil from a TOR oil pipeline in recent years.
The Executive Director of the Corporate Social Responsibility Movement (CSRM), Mr Richter Amarfio, who visited the scene, recalled that the 2005 fire which claimed many lives and destroyed property at the Tema Port was started after sparks from welding works in progress on the MV Polaris ignited fuel from a leaking oil pipeline.
Mr Amarfio, whose organisation is devoted to promoting corporate social and environmental responsibility in the industrial city, said Monday's oil spillage should, therefore, serve as a warning for the need to institute appropriate measures to minimise the incidence of spillage of combustible fuel from TOR's pipelines.
He told the Daily Graphic that spillage of combustible fuel into the Chemu Lagoon could be catastrophic because fishmongers smoked fish along its banks.
They also frequently dowsed burning fuel wood with water from the lagoon to put out fire after smoking fish, by dipping the wood into the lagoon.
Fire resulting from this practice,would wreak great havoc on communities along the lagoon and the industrial area, he told the Daily Graphic.
The CSRM Executive Director, in the meantime, expressed concern about the health risk taken by those who waded into the lagoon to skim off the oil. He said they exposed themselves to grave health risks because of the high level of pollution of the lagoon by dangerous chemicals.
He was particularly worried about the risks taken by the many children who went into the lagoon to skim the oil. “Many of these children may later have handled food or even eaten food without properly washing their hands. The effects may be felt in the short or long term,” he said.
Mr Amarfio also warned that motorists who bought the contaminated diesel cheaply on Monday could damage the engines and other parts of motor vehicles if they used it.
Story by George Sydney Abugri