Environmentalists and stakeholders in the electricity industry have urged relevant authorities to dispose of the old transformers with Polychlorinated Biphenlys (PCBs), saying they posed a serious threat to human health.
They made the call in Abuja at the National Consultative Forum for preparation of the project document on “Environmental Sound Management and Disposal (ESMD) of PCBs’’.
Mr Asawalam Ifeanyi of the Environment and Social Unit and Compliance, Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), who spoke at the forum, defined PCBs as materials in transformers that contain a certain kind of oil.
According to him, the materials are toxic with serious health implications.
Ifeanyi, therefore, called on the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to prohibit the use of transformers with PCBs in the country.
He said: “There is this project that is an outcome of Stockholm Convention, which Nigeria is a signatory to and it is actually looking at the sound environmental management of PCBs.
“PCBs are an additive to the transformer oil; they have a very high dielectric property. PCBs are a very good materials used in transformer but as good as they are, they have a lot of health implications; I mean they are toxic.
“One of the bad properties of these PCBs is that they can last for a very long time in the environment without degrading; they are non-degradable materials.
“If a PCB drops here, it can move to another place in the same quantity without breaking down, so it goes a long way, and when it enters a water body and other environmental sources, it becomes a big issue.
“PCBs can even cause some biomagnifications in the fish and all that; so, they cause cancer and it has been proven in many other places, that is the problem with PCBs.”
Also, Mr Christian Iheanacho, National Consultant for ESMD, said that parties to the Stockholm Convention were obligated to stop using equipment and oils containing PCBs by 2025, while ensuring their environmentally sound disposal by 2028.
Iheanacho said Nigeria, as a signatory to the convention, had to comply with international decisions on the issue, which he described as a threat to human health.
“With a large stock of PCBs-containing oils and equipment identified by the National Baseline Inventory carried out in Nigeria, there is a need to develop and implement ESMD in the country.
“The preparation of the “Project Proposed Document” will outline immediate arrangements and actions that should be put in place to enable all parties namely, UNDP, GEF and the Federal Government of Nigeria to enter into agreement for action,” he said.
In his own contribution, Mr Luciano Gonzalez, an International Consultant, said the forum was organised to provide the Federal Government with technical information on the pragmatic options for the proper treatment and disposal of PCBs in the country.
Gonzalez conceded that the removal of PCBs from operational equipment as well as their treatment and disposal were a costly and time-consuming exercise.
He said that the proper handling of PCBs in Nigeria would facilitate efforts to manage and eliminate the toxic materials which were a serious threat to human health.