The Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia (EPA), the country’s sole environmental regulatory agency has fined the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) US$ 10,000 for possessing a banned chemical, which poses threats to human health in violation of the Environmental Protection and Management Law of Liberia (EPML).
Authorities of the EPA have mandated the management of LEC to pay the US$ 10,000 fine into government revenue at the Liberian Revenue Authority (LRA) within 72 hours and present official payment receipt to the EPA.
EPA Executive Director and CEO, Dr. Nathaniel T. Blama, Sr. said in 2019, LEC requested the intervention of the EPA regarding the overwhelming nature of waste at its facility on Bushrod Island.
He said, responding to the request, a technical team consisting relevant staff of the EPA conducted a thorough inspection of the facility and identified various waste stream including faulty transformers, used HFO and LFO, asbestos, metal scraps and other general wastes.
According to him, a communication was sent to LEC last January detailing appropriate disposal procedure, which included the hiring of a waste service provider to dispose the waste stream.
The LEC was also asked to develop and provide an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) for the safe disposal of the identified waste stream.
He disclosed that LEC failed to comply, but instead hired the services of EDGAIL Inc. a licensed hazardous waste service provider to dispose of the faulty transformers without doing due diligence in accordance with the law.
“Immediately after receiving the tip-off, the EPA communicated with both LEC and EDGAIL to cease all activities regarding the faulty transformers and present all relevant documentations (quantity, specification or type, chain of custody and protocol or disposal plan),” Dr. Blama said.
On January 3, 2020, a team of technicians from the EPA was dispatched to LEC office on Bushrod Island to quantify the faulty transformers and collect random oil samples from different brands of faulty transformers to test for a banned substance called poly-chlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
“The team arrived at LEC premises and, in the presence of LEC and EDGAIL representatives, collected oil samples from five brands of transformers. The oil samples were transported to the Environmental Research and Standards Laboratory in Sinkor for Qualitative Analysis consistent with standard analytical protocols. The results of the analyses showed that two of the five transformer brands tested positive for PCBs,” Dr. Blama disclosed.
PCBS were formerly used as coolants and lubricants in transformers, capacitors and other electrical equipment because they have high dielectric strength, are good insulators and are not flammable.
They are, however, banned worldwide due to evidence of their harmful impact to the environment and human health.
PCBs can be released into the environment through spills, leaks from electrical and other equipment, and improper disposal and storage. Once in the environment, PCBs can be transported long distances and they bind strongly to soil and sediment so they tend to be persistent in the environment and in the food chain.
Studies of PCBs in humans have found increased rates of cancer in different organs (skin, liver, gall bladder etc.).
Section 63 (1) of the Environmental Protection and Management Law of Liberia (EMPL) requires all persons carrying out undertakings which discharge pollutants into the environment to submit on demand, accurate information about the quality and quantity of such effluent or other pollutants, the release said.
The management of LEC failed to test and declare the quality of the transformer oil before opening a bid process for disposal. LEC also failed to present an EMP for the disposal.
Additionally, section 56 “spillers liability’ prohibits the discharge of hazardous substances into the environment and holds the “polluters” liable for said pollution.
LEC has been advised to quantify, isolate and disposed of the substance in accordance with the national provisions and the norms of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, of which Liberia is a party.
EDGAIL INC has also been fined US$ 2,500 for its failure to notify the EPA prior to the removal of some of the transformer in violation of section 55.4 of the EPML).
The company also failed to present a management plan in violation of Environmental Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) guidelines and operating from an unpermitted site in violation of section 64.2 of the EPML.
EDGAIL INC. has been advised to work with the relevant staff of the EPA to quarantined the PCB contaminated oil and commence a swift restoration of the affected site.
Meanwhile, the EPA has reassured the general public of its commitment to ensuring a clean, healthy and safe environment for this and future generation.