The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seized over 2.2 metric tons of chemical smuggled into the country from Guinea.
The confiscation according the EPA was done Saturday May 1, 2021 with the aid of the technicians of the Environmental Protection Agency backed by officers of the Liberia National Police (Zone 9 Depot) who intercepted and confiscated the shipment of illegally imported chemicals at a warehouse in New Hope Community, Paynesville, outside Monrovia.
The shipment according to EPA Executive Director Wilsion Tarpeh originated from Guinea and is allegedly owned by a lady he called Mrs. Aisha Sherriff.
Although the chemical is said to be owned by businessperson Sheriff, but the products were conveyed by a transport company operated by one Mr. Abdulai Kamara.
Authorities at the EPA at a press conference Wednesday, April 5, 2021 at their office informed journalists that Mrs. Sherriff, the owner is yet to be located although a fellow has shown up as her son who is taking ownership of the products.
What arose the EPA to have investigated according to the EPA boss is that the confiscated chemical was packaged and labelled as sodium hypochlorite (bleach) - a compound most frequently used as a disinfecting agent or for drinking water treatment.
Director Tarpeh said when the EPA technicians took a closer look at the HDPE buckets, a second label was identified as cyanuric acid-a chemical used to prevent chlorine loss in swimming pools.
Cyanuric acid is a chemical that dissolves in water to initially form carbon dioxide gas and ammonia and can be potentially toxic in drinking water at high concentration.
Several toxicity studies have demonstrated that cyanuric acid causes renal (kidney) tissue damage that leads to kidney failure.
Speaking additionally, Director Tarpeh furthered," Our scientists have commenced analysis of the product and the chemical is currently in the custody of the Agency pending full investigation."
He intoned," It is very unconventional to have a single chemical packaged and labelled as two different chemicals"adding ,"It is highly likely that the chemical was procured on the black market and packaged in another set of containers to conceal the identity or the original producer or supplier."
According to him, with their understanding, the Agency fears that if such a practice remains unabated, it could pose a risk to human health and the environment.
EPA has kick started national wide chemical inventory
The seizure of the 2.2 metric tons of chemical smuggled into the Liberia from Guinea comes barely three days after the EPA announced that they were poised to begin national wide chemical inventory intended to regulate the import, transportation, handling, storage, sale and use of chemicals in the Country.
This seizure might just be one in a thousand of such products that have made their way on the Liberian market via smuggling(using bypasses).
With this revelation from the EPA, it means that the life of many Liberians who use such product for purification of their drinking water might be at a risk of coming down with renal (kidney) tissue damage that leads to kidney failure.
On the other hand, the EPA has said that chemicals provide enormous benefits to society and play a vital role in the economy but they may also carry risks for the environment (water, air, soil) and human health.
"The public is advised to inform the Agency of all chemical hideouts and stockpiles across the country. This will help the EPA maintain a Registry of all chemicals in Liberia" the EPA boss intoned.
He said EPA remains committed to working with all stakeholders, both public and private, to ensure that Liberia remains a forbidden destination for toxic trade and illegal chemical shipment.
He said, "The Agency reassures the public of its inalienable commitment to ensuring a clean, healthy and safe environment for this and succeeding generations."
When he was asked what was the punishment lay down in the books when it individuals violate the EPA regulations, he said, " The person is charged US$5thousand or go to jail for a period of time."
It is expected that the EPA will dispose of the judge quality of the chemicals they have considered as harmful to the life of the citizens of Liberia.