The head of the Chemical Control and Management Centre at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Mr. Lovelace Sarpong, has said hazardous waste can be very harmful to humans and livestock if not properly dis-charged.
“It can even have a devastating effect on human intelligence, and cause deformities in children, aside other dangerous environmental hazards if not well taken care of,” he stressed.
Mr. Sarpong, was speaking to The Ghanaian Times at the weekend over the interception of seventeen 20-footer containers by the National Security, suspected to contain hazardous waste imported from Ukraine.
Mr. Sarpong said, he was concerned about the rumour that three of the containers had already been discharged somewhere in the country.
He explained further that when disposed of improperly, the hazardous waste could contaminate ground and surface water supplies.
“As a result, it contaminates drinking water which in turn affects public health as well as aquatic life. Quite often, our beautiful rivers become the victims of poisonous waste being thrown into them. A lot of fish have been killed because of the polluted water in rivers.”
“I pray that is not the case because such unfair actions not only pollute the environment but also pose serious health hazards including cancers and childhood brain disorders,” he said adding that hazardous waste disposal was critically important to the environment.
He said now that the matter was with the National Security, the EPA had not got much to do “but we shall quickly move in to ensure that the right thing is done if we are invited.”
The 17 containers, labeled as carrying bags of fertiliser and shipped from Ukraine via India, have been detained for the past 15 months at the State Warehouse, Atlas Terminal, in Tema.
The importer of the plant-growth regulator – as the bags were labelled, remains a mystery, and all state agencies connected to operations at the port remain tight-lipped over the identification of the importer.
According to the head of the EPA Chemical Control and Management Centre, his outfit played a major role in the importation and discharge of hazardous waste, but said the raging saga involving the suspected waste had not been brought to their attention.
The Ghanaian Times’ investigations over several months, revealed that no one had been arrested or come forward to claim ownership. The importer is believed to be an expatriate.
During an earlier investigation, a highly-placed source at the National Security in Tema, had told The Ghanaian Times that a clearing agency named Humble Trust, cleared the consignment. However, the agent is reported to be “playing hide-and-seek” with the National Security.
Under strange circumstances, three of the containers mysteriously vanished out of the port only to resurface after their contents had been entirely discharged.
The source said some heavy trucks were seen carting the containers away — and their suspected hazardous contents emptied somewhere around Gbawe in the Ga West District of the Greater Accra Region.
To confirm the toxicity of the contents, the National Security on November 24, 2014, requested the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA), to conduct an examination to establish whether the bags contain fertiliser.
The GSA, took samples from five of the 17 containers for testing after which it was detected that they had traces of heavy metals such as zinc (Zn), cadmium (Cd), magnesium (Mg), copper (Cu), lead (Pb) and mercury (Hg).
According to the test report signed on December 15, 2014, by the Executive Director of GSA, Dr. George B. Crentsil, though volatile poisons were not detected, “all the metals indicated above were in each of the samples”.
“Clearly, these do not look like fertilizsers for growing crops,” another source at the GSA, said.
When The Ghanaian Times contacted officials at the head office of the National Security in Accra last Tuesday, they said “investigations were still ongoing into the matter”.
By John Vigah