Kenyan slum residents demands billions in compensation after lead poisoning

They residents said they had developed respiratory diseases and other health complications after being exposed to lead emissions.

  • The residents have sued government agency, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), for endangering their lives and failing to heed calls to close down a lead factory in the area.
  • The residents said they had developed respiratory diseases and other health complications after being exposed to lead emissions from the battery smelting plant.
  • Nine villagers, through the Centre for Justice, Governance and Environmental Action, filed the petition demanding compensation in 2016.

The residents have sued government agency, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), for endangering their lives and failing to heed calls to close down a lead factory in the area.

The villagers told a Mombasa High Court that NEMA licensed Metal Refinery Ltd to set up its factory near homes, without consulting them and well aware that its activities would affect them.

Alfred Mulo, 70, told the court that more than 3,000 people in Owino Uhuru slums had suffered  lead poisoning as a result of the factory activities and demanded that the environmental agency share the blame with the firm.

In the suit before Justice Ann Amollo, the residents also want the agency to pay for their treatment.

The residents said they had developed respiratory diseases and other health complications after being exposed to lead emissions from the battery smelting plant that has since been closed down.

“When I was tested, it was found that I had lead poison of 38.2 milligrammes per decimal. I became anaemic. I was always coughing and stayed in the hospital for a long time,” said Mulo.

Nine villagers, through the Centre for Justice, Governance and Environmental Action, filed the petition demanding compensation in 2016.

Other respondents in the matter are the Attorney General, the cabinet secretaries in the ministries of environment, health, water and natural resources, the county government of Mombasa, the Export Processing Zones Authority, Metal Refinery EPZ Ltd, and Penguin Paper and Book Company.

In the year 2007, the Metal Refinery (EPZ) limited, begun its operations of recycling lead from old used lead-acid batteries at Owino Uhuru

Shortly after, complaints emerged from the community within the vicinity of the industry, that the company was poisoning the environment through its poor management of its liquid, solid and gaseous waste.

"Soon after the company started its operations, the roofs of our houses began rusting and wearing out. Many people started falling sick," Mulo told court.

"The factory emitted dark smoke and brown wastewater that ended up in the village. Animals that drunk the water died."

Mulo told the court that in 2009, together with the residents of Owino Uhuru, they had held demonstrations against the factory's activities and complained to Nema and the local administration, but no action was taken.

NEMA, through lawyer Linda Kosgei, however, denied responsibility and claimed it had ordered the closure of the factory established to collect used batteries for smelting in 2013.

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