Liberia: EPA Confirms Cyanide Spillage in Mafa River, Says Leakage From BMMC Operations

But Company rejects report

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says a higher than permissible level of free cyanide spillage from the Bea Mountain Mining Company (BMMC) was the cause of pollution in the Mafa River in Grand Capemount County.

The Company has rejected the findings of the spillage that resulted in the deaths of aquatic species in the Marvoe Creek and the Mafa River.

“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 that water resources for their livelihood,” the EPA said in its investigative findings released Friday, June 3.

The EPA also noted that it has inconsistent with its standard operating procedures, convened an emergency technical sitting and presented its initial findings to the BMMC.

With this, the EPA stated that it has ordered the BMMC to continue its ongoing effort to provide safe drinking water, fish, and other protein sources to residents of affected communities, while at the same time warning them to desist from using and or consuming anything from the water bodies and or using these contaminated water sources for any purpose.

Scope of investigation

The EPA a high-level technical team visited the affected site on Wednesday, May 25, where the allegations were raised to ascertain the allegations.

It said the visit was based on reported deaths of aquatic species in the Marvoe Creek and the Mafa River in Grand Cape Mount County- as conveyed on several media platforms and corroborated by an Incident Notice filed by Bea Mountain Mining Corporation on May 24, 2022.

The Environmental Agency noted that during the visit, the team conducted scientific investigations downstream of Bea Mountain operations and continued upstream to assess the quality of the water, probed the authenticity of the alleged pollution and trace plausible source (s) of pollution. The initial phase of the investigation included sample collection, social interviews, community engagement, environmental scoping, geospatial data and drone imagery.

Findings

The Environmental Agency said its investigation established that there were deaths to aquatic species including fish, crabs, crawfish, and other fauna inhabitants; and these fatalities were caused by asphyxiation (deprivation of oxygen needed to sustain life underwater).

It stated further its analysis results showed higher than permissible level of free cyanide (with source from the BMMC Tiling Storage Facility) resulting in a corresponding reduction in dissolved oxygen level.

However, the EPA noted that at the time of sampling, the level of free cyanide was below the limits scientifically required to cause such fatality as found in the circumstance. We need to and will probe further especially when there are other conditions that could cause this degree of distress and or death of the aquatic fauna.

What the company says

The company says it categorically rejects and disagrees with the findings and claims being made by the EPA.

It says the degree and extent of testing conducted so far are 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 TSF. In fact, our TSF is routinely monitored in accordance with international standards by an independent and internationally accredited design company.

Our disagreement is further supported by the fact that the EPA itself has called for further investigations (and the EPA’s opinion that its test results for Cyanide are far below what is required to cause fatality),” the company said in a press statement issued Sunday, June 5.

BMMC, therefore, welcomes the Agency’s decision to expand the testing by inviting the participation of competent independent third-party entities and fully commits to remain cooperative of this effort to establish the facts.

So what next?

The EPA said in the coming days, it will conduct additional investigation to pinpoint other elements that may have also contributed to the asphyxiation. Where necessary, a third-party, EPA-certified consultant/Laboratory will be called in to assist with these investigations.

Furthermore, it added that a detailed assessment of the water streams will be conducted to determine the magnitude and extent of the quality of the water streams and to conduct an aquatic ecological assessment of the riverine systems. Following this additional scientific intervention, a full restoration plan (corrective measures) will be designed and implemented under the supervision of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Meanwhile, the Agency calls on the public to remain calm and non-speculative the Agency continues this very methodical, rigid, and scientific, but necessary process. It also reaffirms its commitment to ensuring a clean, healthy, and safe environment for this and succeeding generations.

Source:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.