The Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], since the early part of 2017, has been aware of the operations of the Chinese toiletries and plastics manufacturing company, Shine Feel, whose supposed unsafe operations, have now forced the closure of the Osudoku Senior High Technical School.
Speaking to Citi News, an Executive Director in charge of Technical at the EPA, Ebenezer Sampong, said the Agency started receiving reports of the factory’s operations in 2017.
He now says his outfit is embarking on a fact-finding mission to the area, and will take the appropriate actions if it becomes necessary.
“It has been an issue on our table since the early part of 2017. There were some complaints relating to that. What we want to do actually is that, we want to do the visit as we have arranged, and then we can engage [the media] and have a thorough discussion.”
He noted that, the complaints at the time centered on noise pollution and the disposal of waste, which some have described as toxic.
“The pollution was basically coming from the way they were managing the solid waste from their operations and then I think there were also issues to do with noise from their generator.”
In the short term, Mr. Sampong said the EPA is seeking to identify the problems on the ground, and then issue out instructions to the company to rectify them within a particular time frame.
Failure to comply with whatever directives will lead to court action and sanctions, he added.
“Now if the company continues to breach, then you would go ahead to ask them to cease operations and if they don’t stop, then you have the additional measure of resorting to the court to enforce that directive.”
Assembly waiting on EPA
Speaking to Citi News earlier, the Assembly Member of the area, Jonathan Kwabla, had said the Assembly was awaiting a report from the EPA before taking any action on the factory
“We haven’t met to take a decision on whether the factory should be relocated or not. The last time I spoke with the District Chief Executive, he said we are expecting a report from the EPA” he stated.
In Citi News’ first reports on the precarious situation at Osudoku SHS, the Headmistress of the school, Sylvia Baaba Yankey, revealed that the students were affected by the smoke from the factories that when some students with health problems were taken to the hospital, doctors thought they were smokers.
“We experience the fumes on the compound every now and then, some of them who took ill were taken to the hospital. According to some of them, the doctor advised them to stop smoking, meanwhile they don’t smoke,” the Headmistress said.
According to her, the pollution from the company had worsened such that they had no option than to send the students home for health and safety reasons.
Respiratory problems rampant
The head of the Agricultural Science Department of the school, Martin Fianuo, confirmed the respiratory problems among students and staff at the school because of pollution from the factory.
“The children have been having respiratory difficulties when they go to the hospital; the doctors accuse them of being smokers. Not only the students, the staff also. One assistant headmaster in charge of administration also suffered same.”
Due to this, the assistant Headmaster was transferred to another school because he could not work in such an environment because of the effect on his health.
Asuturare farmers to lose livelihoods
The problems are reported to have also spread to farmers in Asuature and surrounding communities which risk losing their livelihoods because of the fumes and other waste materials released into the environment.
Martin Fianuo said tilapia production along the Volta Lake, rice production at Asutuare, as well as banana farmers, are likely to be affected.
“The waste material from their paper is dumped into a drain which leads into a catchment drain of the canal. So the canal system where the catchment drain is supposed to protect the main canal from being breached is also now under threat. And it has gone all the way into polluting the drainage system and this drainage system discharges wastewater into the Volta.”
“If this continues, it means the rice production at Asutsuare, other agriculture producing companies like tilapia production, banana farms are all under threat because of the discharge from the factory. The factory fumes, together with the toilet roll fumes are causing serious problems,” he added.
By: Delali Adogla-Bessa & Kojo Agyeman/citifmonline.com/Ghana