Owino Uhuru community awarded Ksh1.3B compensation for lead poisoning

The Environment and Land Court has ordered the government and two private investors to pay Ksh 1.3 billion to residents of Owino Uhuru informal settlement in Chagamwe, Mombasa County who were affected by lead poisoning which emanated from a factory within the area.

In a ruling on Thursday, Justice Ann Omollo also ordered State agencies responsible for the environment to clean up any remaining lead deposits.

Justice Omolo also gave the Cabinet Secretaries for Environment and Health, Nema, Metal Refinery EPZ Ltd, the Export Processing Zone Authority and Penguin Paper and Book Company 90 days to pay the award.

The residents moved to court in 2016 seeking Ksh 2 billion as compensation for the deaths of their loved ones as well as ailments associated with lead poisoning.

The 3,000 residents in Jomvu either worked or bordered the now-defunct smelting plant, Metal Refinery EPZ Ltd.

Omolo said Nema bore the greatest responsibility for damages at 40 per cent. The mental refinery that produced the lead would bear 25 per cent of the damages for negligence.

The two ministries were each found 10 per cent liable while the paper and book company was declared liable for five per cent.

The court absolved Mombasa county from responsibility.

The company extracted lead from used car batteries, emitting fumes laden with lead and spewed untreated acid wastewater into streams.

It was however shut down in 2014 after causing at least five deaths.

Following the ruling, the State is also now expected, within the next four months, to clean up the soil and water in the affected area and remove any wastes deposited within the settlement or pay a further Sh700 million in default.

The court also ordered the Environment and Health ministries, together with Nema, to develop and implement regulations adopted from best practices regarding lead and lead alloy manufacturing plants.


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