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EPA Lies On The DayLight Over Chemicals Spill Story

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Top: The headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tubman Boulevard in Sinkor. The DayLight/Mark B. Newa


By Mark B. Newa

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lied by suggesting The DayLight did not contact it for the online newspaper’s story over a spillage of chemicals from a Bea Mountain Mining Corporation (BMMC) in a river in Grand Cape Mount County more than two months ago
  • The DayLight had actually contacted the EPA four days before its publication on April 19, accusing the EPA of concealing the pollution, Bea Mountain’s second in two years
  • An analysis of EPA’s website shows EPA published the report on the spillage on April 5, 2023, more than a month after the incident. There was no press statement as done in the past. The general public remained unaware of the pollution until The DayLight’s report
  • But publishing the report only on its website apparently breaks the Environmental Protection and Management Law of Liberia, which requires the EPA to publish the spillage in a newspaper and broadcast it on a radio station
  • The DayLight has frowned on the other news outlets from publishing a press release from the EPA on the publication-concealment issue without contacting The DayLight or adding its side of the story provided in a well-circulated email

MONROVIA – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lied when it suggested The DayLight failed to contact the agency for a story on chemicals that spilled from a Bea Mountain Mining Corporation plant into a river in Grand Cape Mount County in  February this year.

Over a week ago, The DayLight reported that the EPA had concealed the report on the findings of the spillage. The report found that the waste plant at the New Liberty Goldmine leaked cyanide and copper sulphate into the Marvoe Creek and further into water sources in Jikondo in the Gola Konneh District. The chemicals, used to mine gold, are dangerous to people’s health and can lead to death. The spillage is the second in the last two years and the fifth in the last decade.

After the report, the EPA issued a press release, calling The DayLight story as a “diabolical lie.” It suggested that The DayLight did not check the site or contact its communication team before publishing its story.

“The Agency encourages media houses and individuals seeking information on the workings of the EPA to check its website and or contact its media and corporate communications office for information about the agency,” The EPA said in the release.

Screenshots of an email exchange between The DayLight’s Mark B. Newa and Danise Dennis-Dodoo, the head of the EPA corporate communications office show The DayLight contacted the agency over the publication of the report on Bea Mountain’s chemicals spills.

“The EPA is stunned that an online publication that [prides itself] as a credible outlet will depart from truth-telling as a core standard of journalism to telling lies to satisfy its funders’ criteria,” it added.  

But the release contradicts the facts. The DayLight had contacted Danise Dennis-Dodoo, the head of EPA’s corporate communication office, four days before the story was published. In fact, one of seven questions Mark B. Newa, the reporter who did the story had raised, concerning the publication of the report. “The agency will answer your questions and revert to your soonest,” Dennis-Dodoo said in a reply to the email at the time. Those answers have yet to come more than two weeks after this reporter’s email.

The DayLight has expressed concern over EPA’s failure to acknowledge the environmental newspaper contacted the agency. “The fact that the press release here does not mention that is defamation in itself,” said  Director/Managing Editor James Harding Giahyue.

Report Concealed

The date EPA published the February 19, 2023 report—and other documents on the website—is not reflected. However, The DayLight analysis of the document shows it was published on April 5, 2023.   That was more than a month after the pollution.  

Following last year’s spillage, the EPA issued three different statements. One booked Bea Mountain for that spillage, one reaffirmed its findings, and another dramatically cleared the company of any wrongdoing. All those statements were posted on Facebook, a preferred medium of communication for Liberians at home and abroad.

Unlike last year, the EPA made no public statement on the current spillage, which apparently indicates the agency tried to keep the spillage out of the public glare. The pollution was grave and residents of affected towns and villages had been prevented from drinking from creeks in the area for at least 45 days, according to the report. It was unclear whether they are allowed to use the waterfronts now.

The EPA probably violated the law by not widely circulating the report on the current spillage. The law says the EPA may choose to publish and broadcast the spillage—pollution control, inspection and investigation, to name some—in at least a newspaper and on a radio station. The environmental law mandates the EPA to “ensure maximum participation by the Liberian people in the management and decision-making processes of the environment and natural resources.” It guarantees “environmental information and promotes disclosure for the ultimate benefit of the environment.”

But apart from that, the technical language in the report does not make it ideal for public consumption.  That seemingly explains why there has been a public discourse on the spillage more than two months on.

Amid all of this, there is no public record that the EPA fined Bea Mountain for the spills this or last year. Public access to information is a right under the Environmental Protection and Management Law, while public participation is one of its guiding principles.  The law also ascribes to the global “polluter pays” principle.

The report said Bea Mountain did not implement some of the recommendations from last year’s spillage but did not specify. It had called on the EPA to punish the company for violating the law and the terms of its waste permit. Bea Mountain has not commented on the spillage.

One-sided Reports

News outlets, including The News, that lifted EPA’s press release against The DayLight’s initial article failed to include the environmental paper’s side of the story. Giahyue had replied to the EPA email when it issued the press release that Tuesday. The email thread copied a  horde of journalists and media institutions, including The News.

“Individuals and institutions accused in any story or a press release deserve a right of reply,” Giahyue said. “Publishing the EPA’s press release without trying to get our side is an affront to journalism.”


[CORRECTION: This version of the story corrects the previous to add the spill of 2018, making it five spills in the last decade]

Funding for this story was provided by the Green Livelihood Alliance (GLA 2.0) through the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI). The DayLight maintained complete editorial independence over the story’s content.

Bea Mountain Truck Carrying Chemical Crashes in Cape Mount

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Top: A consignment of ammonium nitrate is seen scattered from the accident spot in Small Bomi, Sinje, Grand Cape Mount County. Picture credit: Philip Zodua


By Varney Karmara

SINJE, Cape Mount – A Bea Mountain truck carrying 26 metric tons of ammonium nitrate, which has caused some of the deadliest explosions in human history, crashed by a roadside in Sinje, Grand Cape Mount County in the early hours of last Saturday.

“Early Saturday morning, between 6 am [and] 7 am, we heard a loud sound as if a bomb had exploded. The sound was fearful, and everyone was warned to stay away from the chemicals which felt from the white truck,” said Mohammed Kawah, a resident of Small Bomi, where the accident occurred.

“The sound was so heavy to the extent that we started pushing everyone away from the truck,” Kawah added.  

The two men were injured in the accident, eyewitnesses told The DayLight. Raymond S, the driver of the vehicle, was critically wounded and is receiving treatment at the St. Timothy Hospital in Robertsport, the townspeople said. Rescuers had to use another Bea Mountain vehicle to pull one of the car’s doors open to get the trapped, wounded driver out of the damaged truck.

The truck, marked “TR-007,” was transporting the chemicals from Buchanan, Grand Bassa County to Bea Mountain’s industrial goldmine in Kinjor, Garwula District. Minutes after the accident, the company dispatched a team of workers from its chemical department, who teamed up with experts from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to clear the scene of the accident. The team revisited the site once more after this reporter arrived there.

“They came and sprinkled water to the area where the chemical wasted on the ground and warned us not to go around there,” Boimah Kiadii, Town Chief of Small Bomi, told this reporter. “They also advised us not to make any fire around there.

“They told us that the chemical is not bad, but they also warned us not to go close to it, and this made us worry about our safety,” Kiadii said, adding that Bea Mountain distributed 10 bags of kg rice among villagers.

Bea Mountain employees at the site where one of the company’s trucks carrying 24 metric tons of ammonium nitrate crashed on Saturday in Sinje, Grand Cape Mount County. Picture credit: Philip Zodua

The ammonium nitrate was part of a 5,000-metric-ton consignment of the chemical whose shipment into the country the government approved earlier this year, official records show. The injured driver was trained in the handling of dangerous substances, the fatal transport approved and the vehicle licensed by the EPA in line with environmental regulations and guidelines.

Ammonium nitrate is a white sparkling solid chemical that consists of ions of ammonium and nitrate and is used to produce high yield explosives and as a fertilizer.  When coming in contact with direct heat, extreme sunray, or fire, ammonium nitrate can be very dangerous. It poses health, safety, and environmental risks. It can cause harm when swallowed, lead to eye irritation, produce toxic gas when mixed with acid, intensify the fire, and ignite an explosion when heated under confinement.

This is the second time Bea Mountain, owned by Turkish billionaire Nazif Günal, is appearing in the news for its controversial handling of ammonium nitrate. In 2020, the company imported 4,000 metric tons of the chemical without the approval of the EPA. That importation breached the EPA’s requirements for the shipment of chemical substances. The law prescribes a 20-year prison term, a fine of US$50,000 for a violator, or both. It is not clear whether Bea Mountain was fined at the time.

In August last year, residents of Kinjor saw their complaint against European financiers of Bea Mountain’s New Liberty Goldmine accepted over allegations of water pollution and failure to live up to the agreement it has with affected communities. The company signed a 25-year mineral development agreement with the government of Liberia in 2001 for the extraction of gold in the Garwula and Gola Konneh districts. In 2013, the deal was extended by another 25 years, taking it to 2038.

Efforts to reach Bea Mountain on the matter also did not materialize, as we were unable to get the exact location of the company’s headquarters in Monrovia and on Bushrod Island.

The EPA said in a news conference on Tuesday no residual of the chemical remained at the site of the crash. “No water sources were observed within [a] 10-meter radius of the area and the incident is unlikely to cause any adverse environmental or health risk to the residents of the Small Bomi community,” said Prof. Wilson Tarpeh, the executive director of the agency.  

Ammonium nitrate explosions have led to an array of disasters across the world, among them the Beirut Explosion of 2020 that killed 200 people, the 1921 Oppau explosion in which 500-600 people died, the 1947 Texas City disaster that killed 583 people, the 2015 Tianjin Explosions that killed 173 people.

Despite the danger it poses, some countries still use the substance, including the United States. Countries in Eastern and Western Europe are the largest consumers of the commodity, consuming 53 percent in 2019, according to British information provider IHS Markit. Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, Pakistan, and Turkey are among the countries that have banned the use of ammonia nitrate both as a fertilizer and explosive.  

Liberia has not banned ammonium nitrates, with Bea Mountain using the chemical for its operations, contributing US$9,583,127 to the national budget or 12 percent of the revenue generated by the country’s extractive sector in the 2018/2019 fiscal year, according to the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Imitative (LEITI). 

The Ammonium nitrate spilled in a private yard in Small Bomi in Sinje, Grand Cape Mount County. Picture credit: Philip Zodua

Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI) funded this story. The DayLight maintained editorial independence over its content.

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