EPA Fines East Int’l, Affiliate US$57,000 for Violations – Poised to slap Restoration Order with Cost of US$12,999

MONROVIA: In its first interaction with the press, the management of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of Liberia informs the Public about a series of interventions made following the appointment of a new corps of officers by the President Joseph N. Boakai, says the agency has Fines East International and its Affiliate company the sum of 57,000 for violating environmental laws of Liberia. The EPA Acting Executive Director Dr. Emmanuel K. Urey Yarkpawolo issued 72 hours to the companies, including the Quetz Mining Company to pay the fines in government revenue.

The EPA management at a press conference released activities at East International Company, Fengshou International Company, and Quetz Mining Company which are in violation of basic environmental laws and also provided briefings on wetlands protection in Liberia.

The management of the disclosed in a statement presented to a press conference by its  Acting Executive Director Dr. Yarkpawolo that On Monday, February 26, 2024, a team of environmental technicians investigated the ongoing construction activities of EAST International company along the RIA road following several complaints and outcries by the public, as well as an invitation extended by The Honorable House of Representatives Joint Committee on Public Works & Rural Development and Health, to address issues relative to toxic dust which is allegedly causing lung disease and other illnesses along the RIA road project.

The objective of this air quality assessment, the management said, was to conduct at random points along the construction area during which the EPA initiated physical inspections, and gather residents’ views about the dust pollution situation thereby unearthing a number of   discrepancies on their operations on the RIA road.

Accordingly, findings from the investigation were reported in the following categories including Compliance audit where East International Company’s current EPA permit has expired and the company has a series of occupational health and safety issues.

“There is no record of quarterly and terminal monitoring reports submitted by the company to the EPA. The company has not put in adequate personal protective equipment for the workers among other violations. Additionally, East International does not follow regulations,” the investigation has also found.

The investigative findings also established that Air Quality the East International company emits three times Particulate Matter 2.5 or PM2.5, which is a dust particle that can easily be inhaled and causes some respiratory problems, more than the WHO recommended limit; while the findings further touches on Community Survey where the majority (83%) of the people we interviewed reported that dust occurs constantly in their environment during the afternoon hours.  “Some people reported respiratory problems such as coughing and asthma as the major health issues affecting them,” the investigation revealed.

The EPA has also cataloged a series of non-compliance by East International which is found operating under an expired environmental permit, which is a violation of Part III Section 6 of the Environmental Protection and Management Law of Liberia (EPML) and Section 37 of the EPA Act (2003).

The agency further raises the issue of Air Pollution, which is a violation of Part IV Section 36 of the Environmental Protection and Management Law of Liberia, pointing to the of the failure company to regularly suppress dust along the road corridor, which also violates Section 5.2 count 9 of the Environmental permit, and is subject to punitive measures consistent with Section 112 of the EPML.

In lieu of these violations, the East International had been fined US$$55,000 to be paid in Government Revenue at the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) with an official receipt presented to the EPA within 72 hours as of Monday and to be given an EPA official fined letter, while the East International is also requested to renew its expired permit and follow all the environmental protection laws of Liberia.

Meanwhile, the EPA has investigated the activities of another company, the Fengshou International, an affiliate of East International, which operates a rock quarry in Ben’s Town, Margibi County.

Reports from investigation of the Fengshou International Company  showed that Fengshou has unsustainably backfilled a portion of the Marshall wetland without reference to the EPML, noting that the investigative findings revealed the following three things, including discovery that Fengshou International backfilled and constructed a 2km road within the Marshall wetland; that Fengshou International extended its rock quarry into the wetland, and that Fengshou International backfilled and constructed a rock sale point within the wetland.

“These acts by Fengshou International violate Part VI Section 75 of the EPML, which calls for the protection of rivers, lakes, and wetlands. Consequently, the Fengshou International rock quarry is hereby ordered closed until a more sustainable method is approved by the EPA,” the agency ordered.

In a related development, the Environmental Protection Agency also investigated the illegal mining of black sand or zircon by Quetz Mining Corporation, Inc. within the New West Point Community, in Brewerville, Montserrado County, an investigation which the management indicated was predicated upon media alert, and complaint filed at the EPA, relative to the unsustainable mining activities, and its likely impacts of exposure to nearby residents due to the threats of coastal erosion.

The investigation, which was also initiated on February 26, 2024, by a team of environmental technicians, the EPA management said, identified several issues of violations, adding that findings of the report identified that Quetz Mining Corporation Inc., a company partly owned by a Liberian, is heavily involved in the mining, buying, and processing of zircon at their facility without any authorization from the EPA.

The findings, EPA Management furthered, also established wanton issue of environmental degradation taking place along the coastal habitat of New West Point Community and the facility of Quartez Mining, stating that while Quartez does not have a permit from the EPA, the company conducts unsustainable beach sand mining along the coast, unsustainably processes zircon, facilitates unsustainable beach sand mining by locals for sale to Quertz Mining company, and improperly manages and discharges mine wastewater and tailings within the coastal zone.

“These actions by the management of Quetz contravene Part III Section 6 of the EPML and Section 37 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act titled Mining without an environmental permit,” the EPA management noted, saying that in lieu of these violations, the Management of Quetz Mining Company, Inc. is hereby fined USD 2,999.00 to be paid in Government Revenue at the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) with an official receipt presented to the EPA within 72 hours as of the receipt of the official fined letter from the EPA.

Moreover, the environmental regulatory agency said a “restoration order” with a cost not less than US$12,999.00 United States Dollars will be instituted and communicated to the Management of Quartez mining company.

Going forward in the coming days, the EPA indicated that it will conduct a thorough engagement with relevant institutions of government and other stakeholders to curtail the upsurge in the wave of wetland degradations.

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., the agency asserted.

“As the EPA has already mapped out twenty (20) communities where wetlands are severely under threat, we also wish to use this medium to encourage the public to kindly cooperate with the EPA in prohibiting violators from abusing these wetlands, while the EPA will be engaging with relevant law enforcement authorities to arrest all violators,” the EPA management indicated.

EPA pointed out that as you may be aware, in the event of a flood outbreak those who reside in the immediate proximity of these wetlands are the ones worst affected, saying lastly, that the EPA has also dispatched a team of technicians to probe into the situation that recently occurred at Bea Mountain Mining Corporation (BMMC) for which we regret all the casualties.

“We have also dispatched a team to Todee District, Mont. County, to investigate an alleged chemical spill into the Via River. We will inform the public of the outcomes of these investigations in the coming days.

The EPA reaffirms its commitment to ensuring a clean, healthy, and safe environment for this and succeeding generations,” the EPA said in a statement issued during a press conference Tuesday.

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