Monday, August 10, 2009

Firestone Pollution Tours

Thanks to The Inquirer Online (article below)

Committee On Firestone Pollution Tours Several Villages
‎Aug 10, 2009‎
Morrison O.G. Sayon

Firestone crew on the field

The Inter-Agency Pollution Investigation Team constituted by the Government of Liberia to probe into reports of an alleged pollution by Firestone Company has completed a two-day visit to the alleged affected villages. The team which is being headed by Mr. Thomas Romeo Quioh, Policy Advisor at the Ministry of Planning & Economic Affairs toured six villages in Harbel, Margibi County that are said to have been affected by the alleged pollution by Firestone .

The visit is the first phase of the committee’s work and comprised of members of the Community Interactive Forum which is intended to solicit views from those alleged to have been affected by what the Management of Firestone termed as processed water that is said to be affecting several villages in Margibi County. As a means of balancing its work, the Quioh Committee also visited and toured facilities of Firestone Company on Saturday, August 8, 2009. The team held discussions with the residents of the towns and villages alleged to be affected by the alleged pollution and also with the Management of the Company.

The Quality Control Manager told the team that the company has in place water treatment facilities so that all water leaving the factory is treated before being disposed to the wet land. Mr. Washington clarified that all industrial water are considered as class -3 wet water, therefore it cannot be consumed.
Speaking to the inhabitants of Kparn Yah Town, one of the affected villages in District #3 in Margibi County, the chairperson of the investigation team informed the residents of the area that the visit was intended for the team to elicit their views in an interactive forum. He then pointed out that President Ellen Johnson –Sirleaf was very much concerned about the health condition of all without regards to status, religion or even political affiliation.

For this reason he said the President constituted the pollution investigation team so as to probe into the allegation of pollution by the Firestone. He said the team involves all stakeholders including those from the affected communities, Firestone and Civil Society organizations. The team is comprised of representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ministry of Planning & Economic Affairs, Liberia Water & Sewer Corporation (LWSC), Ministry of Internal Affairs, representatives from the affected villages and Firestone.

Mr. Ouioh then assured both parties that his committee will carry out its mandate without fear or favor and will ensure that the facts are known in the situation. “The issue of water pollution is a serious health problem that needs consideration,” he stated. The Chairman also admonished the citizens to be law abiding and relax, adding, “The government will do all in its power to address your concerns.” Quioh disclosed that his committee has identified 14 parameters to be tested so as to determine whether pollution occurred as a result of Firestone’s operation in the areas.

He said the parameter some of which will be done at the American University in Beirut, Lebanon include, PH, Lead, Ammonia, Nitrate, Copper, COD, BOD, total Nitrogen among others.

Meanwhile residents of the six villages have alleged that the pollution has caused massive death toll in their villages. According to Oldman Wilfred B. David, Senior Elder of Kparn Yah Town, three persons have so far died from the pollution. They residents also alleged that many persons are sick as a result of the prevailing situation.

They called on government to urgently intervene in the situation noting that “justice delayed is justice denied.” The villagers said if nothing is done they will stage a peaceful demonstration at the Capitol Building to meet members of the National Legislature. They noted that because of the pollution all the wells that were dug in the affected towns and villages are now closed while their women are unable to lay their baskets to catch fish in the surrounding rivers due to the alleged Firestone pollution.

“We could unleash our “country devil” on the management of Firestone and they will not withstand the force but we do not want any situation that will derail our hard-earned peace so, we are appealing to the government to timely intervene and ensure that Firestone pay for the damages they have done and remove their pipe from here,” Oldman David angrily told the presidential team.

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