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EPA Shuts Down and Fines Firms for Violations

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Top: Acting EPA Executive Director, Dr. Emmanuel Urey Yarkpawolo (Left). The DayLight/ Esau J. Farr


By Esau J. Farr


MONROVIA­­ – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has fined two companies and shut down another for violations of the Environmental Protection and Management Law.

East International Construction Company, which builds roads, got the lion’s share of the fines.

“East International is hereby fined US$55,000 to be paid in Government Revenue at the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) with an official receipt presented to the EPA,” Acting EPA Executive Director Dr. Emmanuel Yarkpawolo told a news conference on Tuesday.

An EPA investigation found East International operates under an expired environmental permit, Yarkpawolo said. Investigators also found the company liable for air pollution over its construction of the Roberts International Airport Highway.

“Some people reported respiratory problems such as coughing and asthma as the major health issues affecting them,” Yarkpawolo said. He ordered East International to follow the law.

The EPA shut down Fengshou International, an affiliate of East International.

Yarkpawolo said the company would remain closed “until a more sustainable method is approved by the EPA.”

The company unsustainably backfilled and was constructing a two-kilometer road on a portion of the Marshall Wetland in Margibi County,  protected under a UN convention. The EPA also found that Fengshou extended its rock quarrying into the wetland and constructed a rock sale point there without authorization.

East International and Fengshou did not immediately respond to queries.

Wetlands

The EPA says it was taking wetlands’ protection seriously, and citizens closest to the mangroves.

“In the coming days, the EPA will conduct a thorough engagement with relevant institutions of government and other stakeholders to curtail the upsurge in the wave of wetland degradations,” Dr. Yarkpawolo said.

“Recent complaints and EPA field assessment reports have highlighted massive clearing of mangroves along the Police Academy SKD Boulevard, as well as backfilling activities, including Pago’s Island, New Matadi Fanti Town, Dixville, Jacob Town, etc,” Yarkpawolo said.

The EPA called on the media to help in providing public awareness and asked the public to cooperate with the agency in protecting wetlands.

“The EPA will be engaging with relevant law enforcement authorities to arrest all violators,” Yarkpawolo added.

The EPA fined Quezp Mining Company US$2,999 and ordered it to fund a US$12,999 restoration plan for two zircon-sand mines it operates in Brewerville and Royesville. The DayLight/Charles Gbayor

Earlier, the EPA ordered Quezp Mining Corporation Inc. to pay nearly US$16,000 for illegal sand mining activities in Brewerville and Royesville. A DayLight investigation showed that Quezp did not have licenses for the operations. The company’s mineworkers fled the area after the publication.

The EPA fined Quezp US$2,999 for mining without an environmental permit. It mandated the company to restore the environment it disturbed in the two communities with a US$12,999 plan.

Yarkpawolo said that the fines must be paid in three days after official communication with Quezp.

Terrence Collins, Quezp’s owner and CEO, did not respond to queries for comments on the matter.  

Famed Land Rights Campaigner Takes Charge of EPA

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Top: Dr. Emmanuel Urey Yarkpawolo, New Acting Executive Director, EPA: Picture credit Yarkpawolo’s Library


By Emmanuel Sherman


MONROVIA – Emmanuel Urey Yarkpawolo, a renowned environmentalist, is now the Acting Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

Yarkpawolo was appointed over the weekend by President Joseph Boakai. He replaces Wilson Tarpeh, who held the post since 2020.  

Tarpeh had wrongly claimed he was entitled to a seven-year tenure. However, the tenure only works after the formation of a National Environmental Policy Council, according to the EPA Act. Appointed by the President, the council comprises various ministries and vets the executive director, and ensures a seven-year tenure same as the council members. 

Yarkpawolo will serve as Acting Executive Director until the council is formed to approve the mandatory tenure, according to the law. 

Yarkpawolo holds a PhD in environment and resources from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in 2018 in Wisconsin, USA. He is a professor of environmental science and leadership at the Everglades University in Florida, USA. 

Yarkpawolo brings a wealth of experience to the Job. He has worked in the environmental sector, mainly land, agriculture and education, for more than 10 years.

Key amongst Yarkpawolo’s contributions to national development is the passage of the new Land Rights Act of 2018, a landmark law that recognizes customary land ownership.

As a former Country Representative for Landesa, an international NGO working on land rights and climate resilience, he worked with lawmakers, government officials and civil society to promote land, environmental and agriculture legislation and policies. 

In 2016, Yarkpawolo worked with Gregg Mitman, a US professor, to create “Land Beneath our Feet,” a documentary of Firestone’s land grab in the 1920s and its implications today. He won many awards, including outstanding leadership in advocating for Land reform in Liberia.

Yarkpawolo was the running mate to Tiawon Gongloe of the Liberia People’s Party in the 2023 elections. 

‘Not a place to steal’

The new EPA boss declared his assets on Monday morning at the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) before taking over at the EPA at midday. He has a net asset of over US$200,000, his affidavit shows. 

“The law is not preventing public officials from acquiring wealth,” Yarkpawolo told his takeover ceremony in a reference to the Code of Conduct for Public Officials, which has been violated over time. “It is to ensure that wealth public officials acquire commensurate with their earned incomes in a just and justifiable way.

“A better Liberia is possible if and only if the government becomes a place to serve and not a place to steal.” 

Gongloe urged Yarkpawolo to work transparently as he steers the affairs of an agency that can transform Liberia. 

“You are the first person from the LPP so ‘Think Liberia, love Liberia and build Liberia,’” Gongloe told the ceremony in an allusion to President Boakai’s mantra. 

Tarpeh did not attend the ceremony.

Yarkpawolo comes at a time when the environmental sector of the country is in shambles, with violations of the Environmental Protection and Management Law of Liberia rife. Extractive companies are skipping an environmental impact social assessment (EISA), impunity for polluters, disregard of the rights of local communities and the widespread misuse of wetlands. 

Yarkpawolo also comes at a time when Liberia is preparing to trade on the international carbon market. Last year, the George Weah administration failed in their attempts to sign a deal with Blue Carbon of the United Arab Emirates. 

EPA Misled the Public Over Bea Mountain Chemicals Spill, Report Shows

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Top: The pollution-prone Bea Mountain Mining Corporation’s chemical waste plant. The DayLight/Varney Kamara


By Mark Newa and James Harding Giahyue 


  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) misled the public last year when it said a second investigation found chemicals that spilled into waterways from a Bea Mountain Mining Corporation facility were below approved levels.
  •  EPA’s Executive Director Wilson Tarpeh further deceived the public, saying that rainwater had washed the leaked cyanide, arsenic and copper away
  • The EPA has not been transparent in handling the Bea Mountain pollution saga in Grand Cape Mount County. It buried the report last month on its website almost a year after the spillage
  • There is no public record Bea Mountain paid a fine for last year’s spill, which undermines the ‘polluter pay’ principle of the environmental law of Liberia
  • EPA’s arguments against misleading the public, hiding pollution reports and not punishing Bea Mountain are inconsistent with the law and not based on facts

MONROVIA – In June last year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of Liberia announced that Bea Mountain Mining Corporation, a Turkish-owned mining company, polluted water sources in Kinjor, Grand Cape Mount County.

“The analysis results showed higher than [the] permissible level of free cyanide (with source from the BMMC tailing storage facility),” a statement from the agency said on August 8 last year.

“The presence of excess cyanide led to the contamination of the water sources and that the situation has severely disrupted and injured the livelihood of the communities that depend on those water resources…,” it added. The statement followed weeks of a public frenzy after dead fish and a dog’s body made rounds on Facebook.

But in a miraculous reversal of the report, the EPA cleared the company some two months later. To the ire of residents and the outcry of the public, it said in a statement, “All facilities tested were appreciably below the permissible level set up by the EPA.”

Addressing a news conference in early August that year, The Executive Director of the agency Professor Wilson Tarpeh explained the shocking reversal. Tarpeh said the agency had only set a 30-day period for waterfronts in the area to be safe for use.  

“The limit, even though it was above, but that limit was not by itself sufficient to cause distress to the aquatic species,” Tarpeh told a news conference a day after the statement. “The cyanide level—the level of pollution—has been cured by natural occurrence: rain. Rainwater washed all of that away the fishes are about to come back.” 

But the actual report on the spillage the statement and Tarpeh referenced shows the EPA deceived the public. EPA investigators had found the chemicals that leaked from the Bea Mountain facility were well above the approved limits over a month after the incident, according to the report. Chemicals in several samples collected from different locations exceeded the approved limits set by the World Health Organization and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). (The IFC, the World Bank’s private lending entity,  invested £5.3 million into Bea Mountain’s Cape Mount project.)

The Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency Wilson Tarpeh lied that a second investigation into the spillage of chemicals that leaked into water sources in Grand Cape Mount County from a waste plant operated by Bea Mountain Mining Corporation was not above approved levels. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

Water samples from the area of the spillage show cyanide, iron, arsenic, and copper had seeped into the Marvoe Creek and the Mafa River. The chemicals, used to mine gold, can make people sick and are capable of killing them.

Tests also prove that dissolved oxygen (DO), which supports aquatic life, was below the permissible level, according to the report. Mining waste can cause low concentrations of DO and kill fish, which take in the substance directly through their gills into their bloodstreams.

One sample shows mercury—used to recover gold nuggets can cause a horde of health problems and death—above the required level. Investigators attributed it to likely artisanal-mining activities, the report points out.  In total, three out of five laboratory tests show illegal levels of chemicals.  

The report says the water quality had made an “appreciable improvement” by July. However, the EPA focused on that development and left out the report’s actual findings.

Former Minister of Justice Benedict Sannoh, the villagers’ lawyer, made a similar point, despite the EPA’s dishonesty over the July 2022 report. “The EPA report does not suggest and cannot be construed to mean that contamination of the Marvoe did not take place,” Sannoh said in a statement. “Cyanide is not a naturally occurring element of waters and creeks.”

In an interview with The DayLight last Wednesday, EPA Executive Director Tarpeh continued with the same deceptive narrative, focusing on the dilution of the chemicals rather than the pollution.

“In May, that’s the rainy season. There is a chemical spill here each year. it rained plenty, you expect the chemicals to be there? Tarpeh asked rhetorically.

“The water washed the chemicals away. What happened in May, had it happened in the dry season, it would have had more impact.”

Lack of Transparency

The EPA has not been transparent over the spillage, which paralyzed the livelihood of some 350 people in affected communities. It did not inform the public about the full scale of the pollution. The July remains buried on the agency’s website. You have to conduct an advanced search on the website to find the report, though earlier documents are in plain sight.

It was unclear when EPA actually published the reports. For the last two or three years or so, EPA’s website does not show dates of publications. The agency’s webmasters make that determination. That empowers webmasters to manipulate publications’ dates, according to an information technology expert who does not want to be named. The DayLight’s analysis of the website shows that both the May and July reports were published on April 5, 2023, nearly a year after the incident.  

Ngumbu, who investigated the spill, blamed technical issues for the website’s dateless publications. He said the website was being constructed.  

Tarpeh added that the EPA delayed publishing the report because it had to complete its reporting process before publication.

“Our report room is very huge, it is a new phenomenon that we’ve introduced for reporting,” Tarpeh said. Here, we have to be exhaustive. “If I came to your company and I found that something is wrong, I am the regulator and you say no I do not agree, we base on the principle of due process.”

The excuse does not hold. EPA was very open with the May report on the spill. It issued several statements last year—the first just days after news of the spill—and called a press conference. Even appeared before the Legislature on the matter.

The agency’s actions to keep the July report quiet were almost palpable.  Tarpeh had dedicated nearly all of the time to a press conference a day after the misleading statement that cleared the company to wetlands. He spent around two and a half minutes on the spillage, though it was the most trending environmental issue then. An attempt by The DayLight to pose a question on the spill was denied.

Noteworthy, investigators had recommended a press conference particularly on the matter in the presence of company representatives, according to the July 2022 report. A report on another spillage this year, published at the same time as the May and July 2022 reports, suggests the EPA did not share last year’s findings with affected communities.  

The EPA has continued its concealment trend this year after chemicals leaked again from the same facility in February. Meanwhile, 100 people have left the Jikando, the epicenter of the pollution, that report says. The current spill remained unreported until late last month when The DayLight broke the news. EPA had likely published it at the same time as the reports on last year’s spillage, over a month after the incident had occurred.


More on Bea Mountain Spills


The EPA refuted The DayLight’s story on this year’s spill and its disguise of the new development as a “diabolical lie.” It has, however, remained quiet on the new incident.

“We are [a] scientific and [a] regulatory agency. What we do has legal implications. We can sue and can be sued,” said Dobayou, who imposed an illegally huge fine against Bea Mountain in 2018.

We had to search the EPA website to find the dates on which the Bea Mountain spill reports were published, as the website does not reflect the dates on which items were published

Concealing information violates the public participation portion of the Environmental Protection and Management Law. The particular provision mandates the EPA to “ensure maximum participation by the Liberian people in the management and decision-making processes of the environment and natural resources.”

No Punishment for Bea Mountain

There is no evidence the EPA imposed a fine against Bea Mountain for last year’s spillage, one of at least five in the last decade.

The report of this year’s spillage called on EPA to impose a fine against the company for violating the law and the terms of its waste plant permit. It found that Bea Mountain did not implement all the recommendations of the May 2022 report but did not specify. Like this year’s report, the two reports from last year had urged the EPA to fine the company.

A 2020 EPA investigation of Bea Mountain’s controversial waste plant found the company operated an open wastewater facility, rather than the approved closed one. It said the company conducted construction at the plant without authorization. It further said Bea Mountain denied EPA investigators access to its laboratory and company documents. Investigators found the water from a 25-centimeter metal pipe, which emptied into a wetland in the area, contained an excess of the deadly cyanide, copper, and iron. The report also called for fines at the time.   Two years earlier in 2018, the EPA fined Bea Mountain US$99,999 for the same offense. EPA ordered the company to pay to the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) “within 72 hours as of the receipt of the notice of fine.”

The headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia (EPA), 3rd Street, Sinkor. The DayLight/Mark B. Newa

Asked why EPA did not fine Bea Mountain, Tarpeh did not confirm or deny.  “We don’t collect the money,” he said, dodging the question. Normally,  if a company pays a fine to the LRA, it must present a receipt to the institution that imposed the fine. Tarpeh ignored that fact.

“Go to the LRA,” he added.  

LRA records show that Bea Mountain has never paid an EPA-imposed fine in its 14 years of operations in Liberia. All but one of the company’s fines have been customs-related, imposed by the LRA itself. The other fine is also a solitary US$100 just the same time as last year’s spill the LRA calls “other legal fines and penalties.”   

Such impunity undermines the “polluter pay” principle of the environmental law the EPA was established to implement. Based on the law, Bea Mountain should have paid up to a 10-year prison term or a fine not more than US$25,000, or both fine and imprisonment.  

Bea Mountain, which denied any wrongdoing regarding the spillage last year, did not reply to queries for this story.  The Turkish-owned company signed a 25-year agreement with the Liberian government on July 29, 2009. It is owned by Turkish billionaire Mehmet Nazif Günal, also the owner of MNG Gold, which also has a 25-year agreement with Liberia.

Bea Mountain’s history of polluting water sources in the Gola Konneh District dates back to 2015, according to media reports. Then the next year, an accident released chemical waste into nearby waterfronts. 

After those spills, villagers filed a complaint with two European banks that finance Bea Mountain’s goldmine. Bea Mountain said the spill in 2016 was the result of “an extremely rare and unusual weather event that led to the overflowing” of its waste facility, according to a report by the banks.


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

EPA Somersaults Over Cape Mount River Pollution

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Top: The Environmental Protection Agency has flipped its initial findings that Bea Mountain Mining Corporation caused the pollution of rivers in Grand Cape Mount County. Picture credit: Environmental Protection Agency/Facebook


By James Harding Giahyue

MONROVIA – The Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia (EPA) has cleared Bea Mountain Mining Corporation over the pollution of rivers in Grand Cape Mount, reversing its earlier findings that a waste facility operated by the company had polluted waterfronts in the western county.

“A technical team from the agency completed a final round of environmental assessment and water-quality testing on the Marvoe Creek downstream the New Liberty Goldmine… and is pleased to inform you that all facilities tested were appreciably below the permissible level set up by the EPA,” the agency said in a statement on Monday. It said it finalized its investigation in July.

The statement did not say what led to the reversal of the initial findings. The EPA had said it would conduct a final report only to find out what led to the death of fish, not a fresh round of investigation. However, it did not say what killed the fish.

The new findings are the complete opposite of the EPA’s preliminary findings back in June after villagers discovered dead fish and a dog in rivers they use for drinking.

It said at the time that “excess” cyanide, a chemical used to wash gold but dangerous to human health, spilled from the facility at the company’s New Liberty Gold Mine in Kinjor and emptied into the rivers.

“The analysis results showed higher than [the] permissible level of free cyanide (with source from the BMMC tailing storage facility),” it had said. “The presence of excess cyanide led to the contamination of the water sources and that the situation has severely disrupted and injured the livelihood of the communities that depend on those water resources...”

BMMC had denied the results, saying EPA’s findings were “inconclusive and filled with analytical gaps.”

“We are confident and particularly reaffirm our position of being in no breach of any required scientific standards. We note that the EPA has found no evidence of damage to or any spill or irregular discharge from the [tailing storage facility],” it said at the time.

The EPA then reacted that two days later that its preliminary findings were “based on scientific analysis and data collected by well-trained technicians and scientists in the field.”

It had warned villagers not to drink from the water, asking the company to continue to supply affected communities.

The rivers are now consumable, the statement said, thanking villagers for cooperating with authorities, and the company for its support to villagers during the period of investigation.

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