First Independent Air Monitoring from Berezovka: The Results are
Recent air monitoring conducted in the village of Berezovka in
western Kazakhstan indicates dangerous levels of toxics in the air from the
neighboring Karachaganak Oil and Gas Condensate Field, operated by the international
consortium Karachaganak Petroleum Operating, BV (KPO). The consortium comprises
British Gas, ChevronTexaco (US), ENI/Agip (Italy) and LUKoil (Russia).
The samples were taken in accordance with the US EPA accredited
"Bucket Brigade" methodology, which was developed in response to the
lack of independent air monitoring data available to communities suffering from
the impact of oil extraction and refining. The basic concept is to transform
a five-gallon plastic bucket into a sealed vacuum that draws air into a sterile,
chemically-neutral bag. This bag simulates a lung, which has breathed in toxins,
creating an air sample that is then analyzed in an accredited laboratory for
volatile organic compounds harmful to human health. Bucket Brigades are active
in communities around the world, proving sample by sample that industrial toxins
are polluting the air around their homes.
Samples taken by villagers in September showed elevated levels
of hydrogen sulfide, carbon disulfide, toluene, methylene chloride and acrylonitrile
in the air. "The sample demonstrates what the villagers have suspected
for the past several years: that KPO activities at the field are contaminating
the environment and contributing to health problems in the village. The company
and local administration have stated repeatedly that there are no health concerns
resulting from KPO activity. The air sample demonstrates just the opposite,"
said Kate Watters, Executive Director of Crude Accountability, an international
environmental nonprofit working with the villagers. Each of the toxics found
in the air sample is known to be harmful to human health and causes symptoms
such as convulsions, nosebleeds, memory loss, vision loss, rashes and nervous
system damage. Villagers report suffering from each of these maladies.
Berezovka residents are seeking relocation to a safe, healthy
location of their choosing because of the environmental health problems that
plague their community. Forty-five percent of the village suffers from chronic
health problems they believe are caused by contamination from Karachaganak.
The International Finance Corporation, the private lending arm
of the World Bank, has provided $150 million in loans to LUKoil to develop the
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Photo: Bucket Brigade sampling in action, photo by Aleksey Knizhnikov
Copyright © 2005 Crude Accountability