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Kazakhstan: NGO says poisoning of children likely caused by toxic emissions from Karachaganak oil & gas field, operated by KPO consortium; includes company comments

On November 28, 2014, 25 children of Berezovka village simultaneously felt ill during school hours. They reported dizziness and suffered convulsions and loss of consciousness. According to prosecutors of the Western Kazakhstan Region, gas emissions exceeding the maximum permissible concentration of toxic substances were registered from the Karachaganak Oil and Gas Condensate Field on November 17, 18, 25 and 27, 2014. In March 2018, two girls from the village were diagnosed with toxic encephalopathy, a brain disease caused by chemical poisoning. According to Crude Accountability, the doctors’ diagnosis provides documented evidence that the Berezovka children suffer from toxic poisoning likely caused by hydrocarbon emissions from the Karachaganak Oil and Gas Condensate Field. The Karachaganak field is operated by the Karachaganak Petroleum Operating BV (KPO) consortium, which includes Chevron, Shell, ENI, Lukoil, and KazMunaiGas.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited these companies to respond. KPO, Eni, Shell and KazMunaiGas responded. Chevron and Lukoil did not respond. Crude Accountability later issued a rejoinder to responses by KPO, Eni, Shell and KazMunaiGas. Karachaganak Petroleum Operating BV (KPO) responded on behalf of the consortium.

Materials with full information and the rejoinder, responses & non-responses are below.

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All components of this story

Company response
28 September 2018

KPO response to Crude Accountability rejoinder

Author: Karachaganak Petroleum Operating BV (KPO)

...Although we feel that KPO has already expressed its position in our 27 July, 2018 communication, nevertheless, having reviewed the rejoinder issued by Crude Accountability, KPO would like to offer some additional comments...The results of KPO's regular environmental monitoring on the territory of the Karachaganak oil and gas condensate field and around its perimeter continue to demonstrate that no harmful concentrations of pollutants arising from KPO's operations have been detected in any of the villages neighbouring the field...KPO faced multiple investigations by RoK authorities and demonstrated that (i) all emissions from KPO facilities are controlled by a network of Environmental Monitoring Stations that are installed in the field and at the Sanitary Protection Zone boundaries; and (ii) all environmental monitoring stations...showed air emissions below the limits of RoK law, in relation to the incident that occurred at the Karachaganak field in November 2014. All EMS heights correspond to manufacturer’s design. The statement that they “immediately began to record excess of hydrogen sulfide norms” once lowered, is not supported by EMS records...The allegation that flaring occurring at Karachaganak facilities has an adverse impact on the health of inhabitants of Berezovka and was not investigated by RoK authorities is also false as both RoK authorities and KPO did thoroughly investigate the incident of November 2014. Therefore, any allegations of a link between the flaring event and the intoxication of former Berezovka Villagers are not grounded...The 2 minute leak at Unit 3 referred to in the rejoinder was a minor leak of liquid condensate inside the plant and it was not associated with any gas release. The leak was quickly and safely contained...After carefully reviewing the matter, it was concluded that there is no connection between the leak at Unit 3 or other KPO operations and the health of children at the school...It is worth noticing that several different RoK authorities investigated the cases of intoxication at the former Berezovka Village, also with the support of the medical experts of the Russian Federation, and excluded any involvement of the KPO consortium into the intoxications of children and adults in the former Berezovka village...In 2018, RoK Police excluded any connection between the incident occurred at Karachaganak in November 2014 and symptoms of intoxications suffered by Berezovka residents. ..

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NGO rejoinder
25 September 2018

Crude Accountability rejoinder to responses by KPO, Eni, Shell & KazMunaiGas

Author: Crude Accountability

Note: This is an unofficial English translation of the original Russian rejoinder available at the link below

...In response to KPO's allegations that the statements of Crude Accountability about the consortium's involvement in poisoning of children are groundless and unconfirmed, we draw attention of all interested parties to the following facts, which KPO persistently continues not to "notice." These facts are confirmed by documents and official references, in contrast to the unfounded allegations of the KPO's Corporate Communications department...The public and residents of the village of Berezovka do not believe in the objectivity of information from state bodies and KPO about the harmlessness of the company's operations, as the company pays for the activity of the private enterprise Gidromet Ltd, which simultaneously conducts production monitoring for KPO and provides data to local environmental authorities...[O]n December 3, 2014 the WKO [West Kazakhstan region] Public Prosecutor Serik Karamanov stated at a press conference that on the eve of the mass poisoning of children in Berezovka hydrogen sulphide was released at GP-3 complex gas processing unit due to an accident at a gas injection compressor...In March 2018, two children underwent in-depth examination at the Semashko Children's Center for Diagnosis and Treatment (Moscow), one of the oldest children's clinics in Russia. The girls were diagnosed with "toxic encephalopathy" (G92) - brain poisoning with hydrocarbons (X46)...Now the public has documented evidence of toxic poisoning of Berezovka children with hydrocarbons, the source of which was KPO activity...

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Company response
+ Русский - Hide

Author: Crude Accountability

...В ответ на утверждения КПО, что заявления Crude Accountability о причастности консорциума к отравлению детей, не имеют под собой основания и ни чем не подтверждены, обращаем внимание всех заинтересованных сторон на следующие факты, которые КПО упорно продолжает не «замечать». Данные факты подтверждены документами и официальными ссылками, в отличие от голословных утверждений департамента по связям КПО...Общественность и жители поселка Березовка давно не верят в объективность информации государственных органов и КПО о безвредности деятельности предприятия, так как компания оплачивает деятельность частного предприятия «Gidromet Ltd», которое одновременно осуществляет производственный мониторинг для КПО и предоставляет данные местным природоохранным органам...3 декабря 2014  прокурор ЗКО Серик Караманов заявил на пресс-конференции, что накануне массового отравления детей в Березовке на установке комплексной переработки газа ГП-3, произошел выброс сероводорода из-за аварии на компрессоре обратной закачки газа. Ранее этот факт менеджеры КПО отрицали...В марте 2018 года двое детей прошли всестороннее обследование в Детском центре диагностики и лечения им.Семашко (г.Москва), одной из старейших детских клиник России. На основе заключения врачей девочкам  был поставлен диагноз «токсическая энцефалопатия» (G92) – отравление мозга углеводородами (X46)...Сейчас у общественности есть документальное подтверждение токсического отравления детей Березовки углеводородами, источником которых была деятельность КПО... 

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Company response
16 August 2018

KazMunaiGas response

Author: KazMunaiGas

Note: This is an unofficial English translation of the original Russian response available at the link below

...In response to your request to comment on the materials about toxic poisoning of children from the village of Berezovka in the West Kazakhstan region...we report the following...After the incident, the West Kazakhstan Regional Department of Health ordered a comprehensive medical examination of the affected children, both in local hospitals and in leading clinics of Almaty, Astana and Aktobe. According to the Regional Health Department, a medical examination of children did not reveal any diseases that could be caused by toxic poisoning...The results of the regular environmental monitoring of KPO in the territory of the Karachaganak oil and gas condensate field and along its perimeter showed that no harmful concentrations of pollutants resulting from KPO activity were detected. Following the investigation of the incident in the village of Berezovka, the National Interdepartmental Commission did not establish a direct fact of environmental contamination by hydrogen sulphide as a result of gas combustion in the Karachaganak field. In view of the above facts, a criminal investigation into this incident, initiated in 2014, was recently discontinued for lack of the body of the offence...Before January 1, 2018...the population of Berezovka and Bestau villages was completely relocated to safe areas, Uralsk and Artaltal. The population as a whole is satisfied with the process of resettlement and new living conditions. In connection with the incident on November 28, 2014, KPO, with support of the project partners, issued a statement and assured there were no technological breaches at the facilities of Karachaganak that could have affected people's health.

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Company response
3 August 2018

Shell response

Author: Shell Kazakhstan

We greatly appreciate your interest in the wellbeing of the residents of Western Kazakhstan Region. Shell is the co-Operator at KPO BV and stands by KPO’s statement provided on 29 July 2018.

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Article
31 July 2018

Children of Berezovka are diagnosed with toxic encephalopathy

Author: Crude Accountability

In March 2018, Albina Iskakova and Alina Kusmangaliyeva of Berezovka, Kazakhstan were examined at the Semashko Children’s Center for Diagnosis and Treatment...in Moscow, Russia. The girls underwent comprehensive medical consultations and diagnostic procedures in an effort to understand the cause of medical symptoms they have experienced since they became ill on November 28, 2014 following a release of toxic fumes from the Karachaganak Oil and Gas Condensate Field, located five kilometers from their home village. Both girls were diagnosed with toxic encephalopathy, a brain disease caused by chemical poisoning...The doctor who saw them indicated that the disease was likely caused by exposure to hydrocarbons and their fumes...The doctors..prescribed a five-year treatment plan that includes courses of expensive drugs and ongoing monitoring by specialists. Without proper treatment, toxic encephalopathy can lead to serious neurological disorders and partial or total disability. The doctors’ diagnosis provides documented evidence that the Berezovka children suffer from toxic poisoning by hydrocarbons, the source of which, likely, is the Karachaganak Oil and Gas Condensate Field, operated by the Karachaganak Petroleum Operating BV (KPO) consortium, which includes the world’s largest oil companies: US Chevron, Dutch Shell, Italian ENI, Russian Lukoil, and Kazakhstan’s KazMunayGaz.

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Company response
31 July 2018

Eni response

Author: Eni

...Please note that the request in your last email should be directly addressed to KPO...

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Company response
31 July 2018

KPO response

Author: Karachaganak Petroleum Operating BV (KPO)

...KPO and Karachaganak Partners express our deepest concerns for the adults and children affected in November 2014.  At the same time, the Venture disagrees with allegations that Karachaganak Field Operation may have been the cause of illness of the schoolchildren. Moreover, we believe the statements of NGO Crude Accountability on the poisoning of Berezovka children by toxic emissions from the Karachaganak field are factually incorrect...The results of KPO's regular environmental monitoring on the territory of the Karachaganak oil and gas condensate field and around its perimeter demonstrated that no harmful concentrations of pollutants arising from KPO's operations were detected...Specific to the incident that occurred on November 28th 2014, KPO represents and warrants that no process upsets that could affect state of health of KPO personnel and residents of settlements outside the territory of sanitary-protection zone occurred at Karachaganak facilities...A criminal investigation launched in 2014 has been recently terminated for the absence of components of crime...The issue of medical treatment falls under the jurisdiction of local authorities. Following the incident, the West Kazakhstan Oblast Health Department commissioned a comprehensive medical examination of the affected children both in local hospitals and in the leading health clinics in Almaty, Astana and Aktobe...According to the regional Health Department, interdisciplinary medical examination of the children did not reveal any diseases that might have been caused by toxic poisoning...

 

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Article
30 July 2018

77 NGOs from 30 countries support Berezovka parents

Author: Crude Accountability

...[T]he Children or Oil? Coalition launched a letter writing campaign addressed to the companies responsible for poisoning children from the village of Berezovka, Kazakhstan on November 28, 2014. Parents of the affected children, environmentalists, and human rights activists from all over the world demand that Karachaganak Petroleum Operating BV (KPO),  BG Group, Chevron, ENI, Lukoil and KazMunaiGaz provide funding for medical evaluation and treatment for the affected children...Most parents cannot afford to take their children to be examined and treated in hospitals abroad, where they can obtain a real diagnosis and quality treatment...On November 28, 2014, 25 children from the village simultaneously felt ill during school hours. They reported dizziness and suffered convulsions and loss of consciousness. Over the past year and a half, these children continued to suffer severely from these symptoms and other signs of toxic poisoning. The same symptoms were reported by other children as well. Even children who were resettled in the nearby town of Aksai continue to have similar health problems. According to prosecutors of the Western Kazakhstan Region, gas emissions exceeding the maximum permissible concentration of toxic substances were registered from the Karachaganak Field on November 17, 18, 25 and 27, 2014.

 

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Company non-response
30 July 2018

Chevron did not respond