Sidoarjo Mud Reaching Critical Stage as Lapindo Fails to Pump Sludge Away
Surabaya. Irresponsibility on the part of PT Lapindo Brantas may again cause more misery for the people of Sidoarjo.
The mudflow in the district is not being properly pumped out into the Porong River, according to the spokesperson of the Sidoarjo Mudflow Management Agency (BPLS), and as a result the volume of mud within the dam enclosure is reaching a critical point.
Achmad Zulkarnain said that over the past five days, spurts of mud up to three meters high have been observed in the middle of the mud lake that was formed when mud began spewing from a crack near a gas drilling well operated by the firm in 2006.
“The spurts of mud may be caused by the increasing pressure from the surface, thus squeezing the subsurface and generating the ‘kicks,’ ” Zulkarnain said, adding that this may be because the pumps that were supposed to be dumping the mud into the Porong River were not fully operational.
PT Minarak Lapindo Jaya, a Lapindo subsidiary tasked through a presidential decree to manage the mud, used to operate 12 pumps in the area. But Zulkarnain said only two were currently operational.
He said the company cited financial difficulties, but added that Minarak had ignored their repeated warnings “especially after the East Java Police officially terminated the investigation” of Lapindo executives early in August. The police cited problems in providing evidence as the reason for dropping the case.
“How can I say it’s not critical? Only two of Minarak’s pumps plus three of BPLS’s are operational, which means we are only able to move 10 percent of the Lapindo mud to the Porong River,” he said. The volume of the mud contained in the dam is now reaching the critical height of 11 meters, he said. “If it exceeds 11 meters, it would be disastrous,” Zulkarnain said.
The damage caused by the mudflow has been estimated at about $4.9 billion. It has so far buried 12 villages, killed 13 people, displaced more than 42,000 residents and wiped out 800 hectares of densely populated farming and industrial land. Last month the BPLS said more than $30 million worth of infrastructure may need to be relocated because of an expanding underground fissure near the original crack.
Lapindo Brantas, which is controlled by the family of the coordinating minister of people’s welfare, Aburizal Bakrie, has consistently denied accusations that its activities caused the mud volcano. The government has ordered it to compensate those left homeless by the disaster — a task it has yet to complete.