28 June 2012

Liberia: Public Health Under Threat - Mineral Water Company, Consumers Trade Blame

The health of tens of thousands of Liberians and other residents is reported to be in danger as the Liberty Investment Inc., producer of Aqualife mineral water has admitted that "some companies" and "individuals" are bent on contaminating its products.

There have been constant reports of foreign particles found in the company's sachets and bottles of water over the year, with the Ministry of Commerce said to be investigating another recent incident, but the company argues that most of these incidents are clandestine make-ups by unscrupulous individuals.Officials of the company said as a result of the competitiveness in the mineral water business and based on its success, "other companies and individuals" are trying to tear Aqualife down by presenting damaging and falsified images--even at the detriment of the public.

"We suspect that some companies or individuals are doing this to spoil our company's name and to break down our business," the Chief Supervisor of the Company Emmanuel Allieu told journalists Tuesday at the company's headquarters in Brewerville outside Monrovia.This paper last week gathered that foreign particles have been reportedly found in one of the millions of water sachets produced by Liberty Investment Inc (popularly called Aqualife). The foreign particles including a giant red ant was reportedly discovered by a regular consumer of Aqualife in the sachet of water he had purchased for consumption.

Mr. E. Melvin Dossen, in what seems to be a complaint filed with the Ministry of Commerce seeking intervention into the situation, claims he usually buys Aqualife water, and this is not the first time he had seen foreign particles in the company's bottled and plastic bag water.The Division of Standard at the Ministry admitted receiving such complaints but said it could not comment further because it was just an allegation that is being investigated by the Ministry.When this paper contacted the management of Aqualife Tuesday, its CEO Paulinus Kofi acknowledged that a complaint claiming the alleged contamination of a sachet of its water has been filed at the Ministry of Commerce.Mr. Kofi then disclosed that that company has already, with the aid of the police, arrested two individuals involved in injecting foreign particles in the company's produced sachet of water.

Addressing journalists moments later, the Chief Supervisor of the Company Emmanuel Allieu stated that the two suspects (three, but one fled) took what he called the expired water sachets to the company's head office and demanded huge sums of Liberian dollars. Besides, he indicated that an insider of the company saw the apprehended individuals the day before strategizing how get money from the company by injecting particles into the water and taking it there.He said the plan of the two individuals was that the company would prefer giving them money than to allow the new of contaminated water going to the public which would negatively impact on the business entity.

According to Mr. Allieu, C. Boima Johnson and Matthew Moses, the two suspects, give conflicting information about how they got the "contaminated and expired water." He said the alleged sellers of the water denied being the one who sold it to them.Though Mr. Allieu admitted that there were foreign particles in the water carried by the two gentlemen at the company's premises, the product was expired by six months.

He claimed that it was not a genuine product of Aqualife and may have been bagged by someone else to tarnish the company's reputation. "Our water does not even last for a month...the one they brought has expired for six months...it is not from here," he argued."We produce quality water for the public because we know that water is life," he insisted.Officials of the company claimed that some rival companies are taking Aqualife's plastic and dumping foreign particles and sending them in the public as a mean of bringing down Aqualife. Meanwhile the two individuals arrested by the Police in connection with the imbroglio have denied masterminding anything or plan to damage the image of Aqualife.

In separate remarks, Johnson (a fisherman and footballer) and Moses (graduating senior of the United Methodist University) said they bought the water and saw foreign particles and went to alert the company when they were arrested and accused."I am not worried because I have no criminal intent," suspect Boima noted. "We saw dirt in the water and we came to show it to them. Now they are accusing us of putting the dirt in the water. I am very surprised."Moses added that "I have no plan, no plan at all to tarnish this company's name.

I think this is just a bad luck, but we will get out of this trouble."For the time being, members of the public will have to be very careful with the kind of water they are drinking since Aqualife has claimed that people are trying to inject foreign particles in their water, observers said. "There's a possibility that more of these things will happen if government does not investigate these incidents and ensure the public health is not at risk," pointed out James Y. Kollie of Johnson Street.

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