KARACHI: The furnace oil that leaked from a pipeline in Defence Housing Authority (DHA) is being dumped in the residential stormwater drain, which is a conduit for waste to the sea.
National Refinery Limited (NRL) workers are using a pump to suck out oil from a 23-foot-long ditch and are pouring it into the drain, which is dry these days and filled with garbage.
“This is absolutely wrong. This is not the way,” said DHA spokesman Rafat Naqvi when approached for comment. “We didn’t know that the company was doing this.”
NRL officials were not available for comment. The 16-kilometre long pipeline, which carries furnace oil from the refinery in Korangi to Keamari’s oil terminal, passes through DHA. It developed a leak at Khayaban-e-Sehar.
The workers said that only 20 to 25 litres of furnace oil had come out. A pond of black liquid visible in the open ditch was actually water underneath, they said. “When mixed with water, oil has tendency to come to the surface, making it look like it’s all oil,” said a worker, as he threw a stone in the liquid to explain his point. The ripples cleared the oily surface to show water below.
But no one knows how much of the mixture has been dumped in the drain since Thursday night. Officials of Sindh’s environmental protection agency who had earlier visited the site had no idea how the mess was being cleaned up, inquires at its office revealed.
However, Barrister Mohammad Abdur Rahman, an environmental advocate, said dumping the oil in stormwater drains was illegal. “It will probably choke the drain,” he said.
The sludge created from sand mixing with the liquid has not been disposed of at a separate place either as advised by the agency. Workers at the site said the oil-soaked mud will be used to refill the ditch.
Cause of the leak
This was not the first time that the six-inch diameter pipeline leaked at the exact same spot. Oil emerged from a metal clamp, which was used before to mend the earlier rupture. “The clamp has rubbers to fix it over the pipe. The rubber burnt off, probably because of the heat, creating a cavity, from where the oil leaked,” said an NRL worker who did not give his name.
The NRL has decided not to use a clamp as a stopgap measure this time to mend the damaged part and is replacing the 80-foot-long part of the pipeline altogether, he said.
The leak has taken place near Nixor College at the Khayaban-e-Sehar intersection with 14th street. Even though NRL cordoned off all four sides leading to the site, people were still driving past the open ditch, some with lit cigarettes.
Nasurullah Khan, one of two security guards, deputed to prevent vehicles from crossing the cordoned off area, said that people threatened and abused him when he tried to do his job. “Educated people, dressed in suits and driving cars, are arguing with me. I try my best to stop them but then I am only a guard.” DHA’s vigilance staff were not at the site.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2012.