Over Ammonium Nitrate Spillage in Cape Mount, EPA Dispels Fear

MONROVIA-Amid mounting fear following Ammonium Nitrate Spillage in Grand Cape Mount County, western Liberia, an investigation conducted by this paper has established that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has since concluded the investigation and findings showed that the spillage “poses no risk to the residents” as earlier claimed.

It can be recalled that following an accident in Small Bomi on February 19, 2022, a quantity of ammonium nitrate was spilled on the ground in the village with authorities and others alleging that there were health risks associated.

However, the EPA’s findings have dispelled claims made by residents of the affected community.

Our investigation also showed that the EPA team held a town hall meeting with the community and explained how the incident would be managed.

The EPA confirmed that “After the town hall meeting, EPA recorded environmental quality data and supervised the complete clean-up of the spill by the Bea Mountain Mining Company’s Environmental Team.”

The EPA’s test provided no evidence of any dust or gases as claimed by the community.

The community engagement allayed public fear and provided an overview of ammonium nitrate which is mainly used as a fertilizer.

Ammonium nitrate is widely used as fertilizer across the world. The product comes as small spherical pellets. There is no dust in the bags and the product is clean.

According to our source, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which is the regulatory authority said it conducted an environmental quality assessment of the area and presented its findings to the public;reiterating that the accident poses no inherent environmental or health risks to the residents of Small Bomi.

Speaking further, our source added that the EPA Executive Director also confirmed in a recent press release that “Bea Mountain Mining Company and KAPEKS also obtained all documents required to meet full compliance and during the transportation of the ammonium nitrate from Buchanan to New Liberty Gold Mine, the Joint Security Team including the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Mines and Energy and EPA provided escort for each convoy.

He disclosed that no residue of ammonium nitrate remained after the clean-up process and noted that no water sources were observed within 10 meters radius of the area. He said “This ensured an adequate response to the incident of February 19, 2022”.

The BMMC Community Relations Supervisor visited the scene on March 7, 2022 and listened to the people’s concerns and answered their questions. They spoke to the community members and listened to their concerns about coughs and skin ailments.

The County Health Team from Sinje and BMMC CR team went to the village on March 18, 2022 to look into the people’s health complaints. After examination of the complaints, it is understood that the complainers’ conditions are stable.

As indicated in the Daily Observer article updated on March 18, 2022 with the EPA full response, the EPA noted that it assessed every medium of transport linked to ammonium nitrate toxicology and found absolutely no evidence of residual effect emanating from the accident. The Agency, therefore, submits that the alleged symptoms presented by patients, as referenced in the story, are completely unrelated to February 19, 2022 ammonium nitrate accident.”

“So far, no link could be found between the ailments described by the community members and the spilled product,” the source said. “The conclusion is that the pain, coughs, and skin conditions reportedly experienced by some of the community members are not related to the accident.”

The statement further said ‘For instance, air quality readings taken after the accident showed nitrous oxide (the main gas that forms when ammonium nitrate decomposes) levels far below the World Health Organization permissible limit for 8 hours continuous exposure.”

Our source recounted that the incident occurred when a truck transporting the load of bulk bags of ammonium nitrate from the Buchanan Port to the New Liberty Gold Mine was part of a convoy of vehicles on that Saturday, February 19, 2022.

It was alleged that the driver of the truck fell asleep behind the wheel and crashed along the side of the bank at the village. About 10 metric tonnes of the load was spilled from the back of the truck onto the ground as small pellets.

Following thorough scientific investigation, it was established that the Bea Mountain Mining Corporation (BMMC) team responsible for the transport got to the scene shortly afterwards and the members of the Liberian Joint Security Team (JST) (who accompanied the consignments) were also at the village shortly after the crash. Our source added that the JST includes a person from the EPA.

The BMMC Health and Safety Superintendent and the Environmental Spill Response team arrived at the scene at about 9am. The Senior EPA team led by the Chief Scientist and Head of the Chemicals Permitting section, Rafael Ngumbu, arrived in the morning. They assessed the scene and measured the air quality for dust and gases and found that the levels were far below the World Health Organization limits for 8 hours continuous exposure.

Our source further said the EPA’s Rafael Ngumbu also gathered the community to talk about the product and answer their questions. The Health and Safety Manager translated the discussions into the local Vai language to ensure that people fully understood what was being said.

BMMC’s H&S Manager, Mr. Fanbulleh, stayed until the area had been swept and the surface had been washed with a water tanker to ensure that no product remained. The community was satisfied at that point.

As part of our investigation, we also spoke to the community where the incident occurred. During the investigation, Town Chief, of Small Bomi Zwuna Zoedua explained that they have come to the relaxation that they see no risk during the incident.

According to him, citizens of the town have realized that the chemical which got spilled on the bank along the main road has absolutely no effect to the people.

The town chief said it was only due to fear and ignorance that prompted them to raise such a concern.

He noted that according to the Environmental Protection Agency and the County Health Team have established through vigorous check up and monitoring noting that the chemical is widely used as fertilizer and can only be harmful when processed into another state of use.

“Based on numerous check up, EPA and the County Health Team said we are all stable in health said the Town Chief.

Also speaking, Ma Da Kawa a resident of Small Bomi noted when the incident took place our children ran on the scene.

According to her, they were later informed by one of the drivers that the chemical is harmful.

“But with the intervention of national government we have come to realized that no further sickness is attached to that chemical on us, we also thank God for that she said”.

Madam Kawa further explained that it is not good as a person of Allah to put sickness on oneself and attribute it to chemical spilled she concluded”.



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