Kazakhstan: Local residents blame Karachaganak oil & gas field (operated by KPO) for mass poisoning of children; company denies allegations

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Article
16 December 2014

29 school students and teachers faint one after another in Western Kazakhstan

Author: Tengrinews (Kazakhstan)

25 school children and 4 teachers have unexpectedly fainted in a Western Kazakhstan village school one after another on November 28, Tengrinews reports citing Moi Gorod. 29 people from Berezovka village school were taken to the village hospital. According to the doctors, the children are agred from 10 to 15...The parents said that children had started fainting two days before...and that residents of the village that is situated close to Karachaganak oil field started noticing a strong unpleasant smell in the past several days. “We wrote a letter to the Head of the Karachaganak Petroleum Operating asking them to stop polluting the air,” the mother of a 5th grader...said...Parents of other school children said that villages, too, had been experiencing unexpected health failures. “We are getting a sudden dizziness or nose bleeding. Weird things are happening here,” one of the villagers said. The parents immediately waived off the "overwork version" and unanimously pointed at Karachaganak oilfield as the source of the problem.

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Article
16 December 2014

Kazakh Vice Prime Minister visits Berezovka village after mass poisoning of children

Author: Tengrinews (Kazakhstan)

Deputy Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Berdybek Saparbayev has visited Berezovka village after the mass poisoning of children...[H]e informed that the visit to the village in close proximity to the major oil and gas field Karachaganak was made to comply with the instruction he was given by President Nursultan Nazarbayev. "A state commission has been established...[A]ll the relevant bodies are involved. For now I can only say that the results of the investigation will be announced by January 20," Saparbayev said...Prosecutor of West Kazakhstan Oblast Serik Karamanov reminded the villagers that a criminal investigation had been initiated into the poisoning of children. In addition, he said that inspectors found that the school was situated in the lowest point of the village, and the gas is known to accumulate in the lowlands. According to him, this is the reason why only school children and some school staff suffered from the emissions. But the villagers are looking for action. They asked the Akim why there were no relocation plans even though dozens of people, mostly children, had suffered in this latest incident...Residents of Berezovka wrote a letter to the President of Kazakhstan asking to be relocated away from the field. 

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Company response
15 December 2014

KPO response

Author: Karachaganak Petroleum Operating BV (KPO)

…Karachaganak Petroleum Operating BV (KPO)…remains committed to achieving the highest standards of environment and safety performance and compliance with the applicable RoK legislation and regulations. We continue to be concerned that children and teachers were taken ill at the Berezovka village school over the past fortnight…While the cause of the incident remains unknown, KPO is actively participating in the Berezovka incident investigation and…is providing all relevant data including information from operational facilities and environmental monitoring stations to the investigating authorities…There has been much speculation about the recent flaring of gas on 27th November 2014.  Flares are important safety practices. They safely burn excess gases which are not used in the KPO processing plant.  That is why KPO believes it is an error to assume that on this day there was a release, emission or leak of gas, including hydrogen sulphide, in excess of permitted levels. Regular environmental monitoring in and around the field is carried out by independent third parties as well as KPO…There is also a monitoring regime for surface water, ground water and soils…[O]ver 100,000 samples are taken and analysed annually.

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Article
6 December 2014

Mass poisoning in western Kazakhstan: KPO denies breaching environmental standards

Author: Tengrinews (Kazakhstan)

More children from Berezovka village…have been hospitalized…First mass poisoning of schoolchildren took place in the village of Berezovka on 28 November…They blamed the bad ecological situation caused by practices at Karachaganak oil and gas condensate field developed by Chevron, BG Group, Eni, Lukoil and KazMunaiGas. Then there was another bunch of schoolchildren hospitalized…[O]n December 5, six more children have been brought to the hospital, in the third wave of hospitalization of children…Parents of students who were discharged from the hospital earlier say their kids are still unwell…Karachaganak Petroleum Operating B.V. that develops the field, insists their experts and equipment detected no excesses of the maximum permissible concentrations of harmful substances in the village Berezovka…“While the cause of the incident remains unknown, we are actively participating in the Berezovka incident investigation and we are working in close cooperation with the Western Kazakhstan Oblast authorities and all relevant authorities,” they said…They added that a “mobile environmental monitoring station” was sent to the village and again detected “no excess of the official maximum permissible concentrations”.

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Article
5 December 2014

Hydrogen sulphide emissions at Karachaganak before mass poisoning in Western Kazakhstan

Author: Tengrinews (Kazakhstan)

Several emissions of hydrogen sulphide from the Karachaganak field preceded mass poisoning of children in a nearby western Kazakhstan village, Prosecutor of the Oblast Serik Karamanov said...The mass fainting of children occurred on November 28 in Berezovka village in West Kazakhstan Oblast. The villagers unanimously pointed in the direction of Karachaganak, a massive oil and gas condensate field located just a few kilometers away from Berezovka. Karachaganak accounts for 45% of total gas production in Kazakhstan and about 16% of all liquid production. The field is managed by Karachaganak Petroleum Operating, a joint venture of British BG Group…Italian…American Chevron…Russia’s Lukoil…and Kazakhstan’s KazMunaiGas...Half of the villagers suffer from various respiratory diseases, chronic in most cases..Right after the fainting incident, however, they were assured by Steve Wright, HSEQ Controller at Karachaganak Petroleum Operating B.V., that the field had special ecological control posts to monitor the situation constantly. He said that there was a sanitary protection zone in place in accordance with the standards and that the measurements of special ecological control posts set all around the field were “very precise”…After that, the villagers gathered signatures and submitted an open letter to the President of Kazakhstan, asking for a relocation of the village away from the oilfield, fearing for the lives of their children.

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