Ghana has been warned against a looming Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORMs) management crisis in the near future if pragmatic steps are not taken to control the situation.
The Radiation Protection Institute (RPI) under the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) made this revelation.
Speaking in an interview with the Center Manager of the Food and Environmental Monitoring Centre of RPI, Dr. Oscar Adukpo disclosed that the situation has affected some oil producing countries including Ghana’s West African neighbor Nigeria.
NORMs, also known as, Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials are typically produced from the debris of oil extraction and mining activities.
According to Dr. Adukpo, the risk is more prevalent in the oil-producing sector than the mining sector. Explaining how the situation degenerates, he said that cleaning of the Scale; (a pipe trough which crude is extracted from the oil well) is a mandatory procedure that must be observed after a period of oil extraction. “When this waste is collected from the scale, storage and deposal becomes a difficult situation to deal with”, he added.
He further explained that unlike the mining sector that may reclaim mined sites over a relatively shorter period of time, oil wells are engaged for decades and hence making it difficult to dump NORM waste. “ The waste become sizable overtime and is unbearable”, he lamented.
Stressing on the dangers it poses on public health, Dr. Adukpo pointed out that poor NORM waste management practices, may cause them to end up in streams and other water bodies, contaminating them with radioactive substances in the process. This he said affects aquatic creatures (Fishes, etc) and goes ahead into food crops if contaminated water is used to irrigate farmlands. “The underground water is also affected since surface water goes deep into the ground to recharge underground water and in effect, the boreholes within that region will be affected.
He lamented that; this can have servere health implications on the general public if borehole water is used for domestic activities (cooking, drinking, etc) and on commercial bases (Sachet water production, etc)
He disclosed that, Ghana is yet to manage NORM waste for the first time from the oil sector, but has little or no capacity in that regard.
According to him, the RPI under GAEC is able to do NORM measurement and Analysis but will require extra facilities to be able to clean oil scales and manage NORM waste.
He called on government to consider developing strategies to manage NORM waste to avoid all manner of dangers the public will be exposed to, due to poor management of NORMs.