Arya Dipa, Ardila Syakriah and Kharishar Kahfi, Bandung and Jakarta – Environmental recovery efforts following the recent oil leak from state energy giant Pertamina's Offshore North West Java (ONWJ) Block may take more than six months, officials have said, as residents have reportedly begun to bear the brunt of the damages.
The oil spill follows a gas well kick incident, an unplanned and often violent release of gas caused by low pressure in a wellbore, on July 12 in an exploration well called YYA-1, beneath PHE's ONWJ offshore platform located 2 kilometers north of Karawang, West Java.
Initial reports showed that the oil spill had only affected 11 villages in Karawang and Bekasi, West Java, and seven beaches in the province, but the Thousand Islands administration said on Friday that the spill had reached seven of its southern islands on July 22.
Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said that the government and Pertamina would need at least six months to conduct environmental recovery efforts in the affected areas.
"There will certainly be continuous conservation and recovery programs to address the impacts of the oil spill. We hope that physical recovery could proceed quickly, we will do as best as we can," she said after observing Karawang and Thousand Islands on a chopper on Thursday, as quoted in the ministry's press release.
West Java governor Ridwan Kamil said that Pertamina and affected administrations had agreed to resolve the issue within the next eight months at the latest, which would be divided into two stages.
"The first stage is two to two and a half months of emergency responses. The recovery period will proceed for the following two to six months. Economic, psychological and environmental impacts must be recovered," Ridwan said in Bandung, West Java, on Friday.
He ensured that Pertamina would take full responsibility of the recovery efforts, which he said included employing affected residents to help clean up the waters so they could still earn an income.
The oil spill has reportedly contaminated residents' salt, shrimp and milk fish farms, leading to lower or even no production at all as farmers and fisherfolks are forced to halt their activities.
President director of the company's upstream business subsidiary Pertamina EP, Nanang Abdul Manaf, claimed on the same occasion that the company had employed around 5,000 affected residents to clean up the shores.
"We are calculating the losses [...] while involving local administrations," he said.
Dwi Sawung of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) said that the oil spill could harm marine life and plants, as shown by dead fish found by fisherfolk in Karawang. He said that mangrove trees in some areas had also been affected, noting that a deeper look into the environmental impact should be immediately conducted to measure the damage.
He demanded transparency from Pertamina and the government regarding data on the affected areas and the extent of the damage as residents had the right to know about the state of the environment they were living in as stipulated in the 2009 law on environmental protection and management.
"Pertamina should also install ambient air quality monitoring devices to detect air pollutants in the affected villages, because some residents have complained of headaches from the stench of the oil spill. I'm afraid there will be long-term health effects," Sawung said.
Funds for environmental recovery efforts should also be under close watch given the involvement of the local and central administration, putting them at risk of being corrupted, he said.
Pertamina corporate communication vice president Fajriyah Usman told the Post on Saturday that the company had begun fixing the broken well on Friday. The company will close the well permanently.
"Our strategy is to maximize off-shore management to ensure minimal impact onshore," Fajriyah said.
To contain the oil spill, Pertamina has deployed 37 monitoring ships and stretched out more than 2,000 meters of static oil booms, a temporary floating barrier used to reduce the pollution on shorelines.
It has also hired United States well control company Boots & Coots, which handled the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The company has shut down its operations in the ONWJ block, where the wells in the YY project were previously able to produce 3,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd).