Officials from South Sudan oil-rich Unity State say an oil pipeline has raptured, contaminating a large portion of the land.
Unity State Information Minister Kang Bol told local Eye Radio that the oil leakage must have lasted for two days before the communities realized and reported the matter to the company.
He stressed that with continuous rainfall and flooding, communities are at risk of oil contamination.
“There is a threat. It has already been happening and communities around the area have been reporting stories of children and women being affected,” Kang stated.
The broken pipeline is part of Block 5A oil field which is managed by Greater Pioneer Operating Company or GPOC consortium.
The country has seen a surge in oil leaks from poorly maintained pipelines which has affected communities.
Environmental reports quoted by Associated Press in February indicate that leaks have left a landscape pocked with hundreds of open waste pits, the water and soil contaminated with toxic chemicals and heavy metals including mercury, manganese, and arsenic.
The reports also contain accounts of “alarming” birth defects, miscarriages and other health problems among residents of the region and soldiers who have been stationed there.
Residents describe women unable to get pregnant and having excessive numbers of miscarriages, and babies born with severe birth defects.
The concerns, which date as far back as 2013, were presented to the oil companies and South Sudan’s ministry of petroleum but subsequently buried, according to four people with close knowledge of the oil operations and the documents.
“South Sudan is running one of the dirtiest and poorest managed oil operations on the planet,” said Egbert Wesselink, the former head of a European coalition of more than 50 non-profit organizations focused on the impacts of the country’s oil sector.
He worked on the oil fields in South Sudan before the country gained independence in 2011, and now works with PAX, a Dutch-based human rights organization.
Last year, governors in Upper Nile region called for the review of oil contracts that were signed with oil companies before the independence of South Sudan.
They argued that, some of the agreements signed under the Sudanese government had not factored in the environment, and the welfare of the ordinary South Sudanese living around the oil fields, according to Eye Radio.