6 April 2005

Liberia: EPA Wants Tough Measures Against Firestone

Says the Company Should Compensate Liberia with US$79m

The Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr. Fodee Kromah, has recommended tough measures against the Firestone Rubber Plantation Company for allegedly polluting the environment especially in its concession area of operation.

"Firestone should compensate the Government of Liberia a total amount of US$79 million (1 million for each year of operation) for environmental damages, especially the pollution of the Farmington River," Dr.

Kromah said in his letter. His recommendation was contained in a speech he recently delivered in Monrovia.

According to the EPA boss, "Firestone brought rubber in this country. Even though Sulfuric Acid is now sold commercially, it was Firestone that first brought sulfuric acid and Ammonia in this country.

"Nationwide, this has resulted mainly to the pollution of rivers, creeks and in many places the drainage system." He noted that Firestone and other major international rubber producers and buyers operating in Liberia pay the costs of EIA and remediation in areas being operated and affected by local producers.

"Firestone and other international rubber companies build the capacity of the Environmental Protection Agency to deal with related environmental problems in the sector," the EPA boss asserted.

He also recommended that the company and other international producers and buyers provide means where rubber is now purchased in the latex state to avoid treatment with sulfuric acid or other toxic organic compounds, which he believes Firestone will be taking and must take the lead to avoid further contamination of the air, soil, ground, water, river, etc.

Dr. Kromah also recommended that "along with the University of Liberia, the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Firestone rehabilitates its botanical gardens," adding that the company should provide support to the UL for research into indigenous species.

"That the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare conducts a survey to determine occupational health hazards associated with Firestone's operations, such a survey should include employees' health," says Dr.Kromah.

He suggested further that Firestone should establish an environmental section within its operation to monitor activities that have adverse effects on the environment and human health and to engage in environmental awareness.

In his words, Firestone should support the department of Agriculture and Forestry and the Institute of Environmental studies and to engage in environmental awareness.

He also proposed that any new development of Firestone's plantation should include the enclaves of natural forest on higher elevations and along waterways remain in their natural states, that a proportion of land that should be covered by monoculture is determined and that the enclaves of natural forest and wetlands within monoculture are set aside as protected areas.

The EPA Director has also recommended for the protection and preservation of the environment that changes must be made in the Agreement with Firestone to conform to the Environmental Protection and Management Law.

"That Firestone shall conduct its operations in accordance with the Environmental Protection and Management Law" of Liberia.

Meanwhile, the much-talked about Firestone agreement with the government was passed into law yesterday without the company conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of its plantations with special attention to water bodies and other fragile ecosystems.

Dr. Kromah observed that "after more than three quarter of a century of production, there is no record of Firestone conducting an environmental of its plantation area "even though EA as an environmental management decision tool has been around for about half a century."

"The EPA of the United States of America was established in 1974, by then it was mandatory that all projects that have the potential to damage the environment an EA must be undertaken, suggesting that Firestone which has a huge American presence must have known that.

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