Syokimau residents sue Nema over steel milling pollution

Residents of Syokimau Estate in Machakos County have sued the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) in a fresh twist regarding a longstanding dispute with Endmor Steel Millers Limited, a metal smelting company whose factory the residents accuse of air and noise pollution.

The factory is located within the estate and has been in operation for the past five years, a period characterised by complaints of noise and air pollution by more than 1,200 members of Syokimau Residents Association.

The environment watchdog, according to the residents, has been looking the other way as the factory pollutes with noise and toxic gases, including nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, particulate matter and carbon monoxide.

They are pleading with the Environment and Land Court sitting in Machakos to compel Nema to determine whether the factory’s noise and air emissions are within the permissible levels.

They also want the court to suspend the licence of the factory until the matter is resolved.

The applicants have listed Endmor Steel Millers Limited and the National Environmental Complaints Committee as first and second interested parties respectively.

“The noise and air emissions from the factory of the first interested party has currently reached unbearable proportions to the residents living near the factory who comprise the applicants and members of the 1st interested party,” reads the pleadings in the suit certified as urgent and which lawyer Isaac Miencha filed on on Thursday.

“It is imperative on an urgent basis for the respondent to carry out tests with regards to stack emissions, ambient air quality emissions, and noise to determine if they are within the permissible levels.”

"I have perused the application dated 14th June 2021. The same is hereby certified urgent. Let the same be served for inter parties hearing on 6th July 2021," judge Oscar Angote directed on Friday.

This is not the first time Endmor has had troubles, but it has always stuck to its guns.

The company maintains it is operating responsibly and that its emissions are within the permissible levels to the chagrin of residents who link a spike in respiratory diseases and deaths in the area to the factory.

Machakos governor Alfred Mutua last year ordered the factory shut down and announced that his administration would suspend the company’s licence.

He said the factory would remain shut until the company installed a clean production system.

However, it did not take long before the factory roared back to life after Dr Mutua’s administration gave it a green light.

A month later, in August, the National Environmental Tribunal (NET) ordered the factory closed for a week following an application by Nema.

The tribunal ruled that the closure would allow Nema and the factory to agree “on the methodology of assessments of air quality at the facility”.

The two parties were to submit a report to the tribunal by September 4, 2020.

The NET directed Nema to carry out further tests six months ago. However, Nema asked the tribunal in March for more time to procure an accredited laboratory to carry out the tests.

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