Athi River battery maker criticises pollution report

ABM (EA) chief executive Guy Jack. photo | salaton njau | nmg
ABM (EA) chief executive Guy Jack. photo | salaton njau | nmg 

Athi-River based Kenyan Associated Battery Manufacturers East Africa ABM(EA) has denied claims of environmental pollution around its Athi River plant, saying its operations meet international practices and manufacturing standards of battery making production.

ABM (EA) chief executive Guy Jack spoke in the wake of findings published in a report that said independent researchers established extensive lead contamination in lead battery recycling plants in Athi River and surrounding communities.

The study “Soil Contamination from Lead Battery Manufacturing and Recycling in Seven African Countries” published in the journal Environmental Research, tested areas surrounding 16 authorised industrial facilities in Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Tunisia. In Kenya it conducted studies on two sites in Athi River.

Mr Jack said: “ABM (EA) Ltd is one of only two battery plants in East Africa, the other being in Uganda and the only fully certified, state of the art lead recycling plant in East Africa. We spend millions of dollars annually on filtration plants, effluent treatment plants and PPE, ensuring our environmental responsibilities are to international rather than local standards.”

“Our plants are most certainly not part of the claimed report.”

According to the study, lead levels around the lead battery recycling plants ranged up to 48,000 parts per million (ppm) with an average of 2,600 ppm. Levels below 80 ppm are considered safe for children.

The National Environmental Management Authority had not responded to our queries by the time of going to Press.

Perry Gottesfeld, executive director of global environmental lobby Occupational Knowledge International USA and the lead author of the study, said: “There is an immediate need to limit lead emissions from this industry and to test children’s exposure levels in nearby communities.

“There is need for regulations to reduce emissions, monitoring and annual report of emissions should be publicly reported. There is need for more intensive assessment around these sites to plan for the remediation of contaminated soil.”