The case of intercepted hazardous waste:National Security fails to make arrest

Yaw Donkor, National Security Co-ordinator

Yaw Donkor, National Security Co-ordinator

The National Security is yet to make any arrests, 48 hours after The Ghanaian Times’ publication on the interception of 17 20-footer containers suspected to contain hazardous waste imported from Ukraine.

However, a high-profile source at the National Security head office in Accra yesterday told The Ghanaian Times that “investigations into the matter are still ongoing.”

According to the source, the National Security Coordinator stationed at the Tema port, “would be directed to take further action and give us a briefing on the current situation.”

“For now, there is nothing much we can say than to tell you that we are working on it,” it added.

Meanwhile, another source at the Chemical Control and Management Centre of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who spoke with The Ghanaian Times yesterday on condition of anonymity, said that the agency was not aware of the seizure of the suspected hazardous waste.

“As far as we are concerned, the matter has not been brought to our attention,” the source stressed.

According to the source, the agency played a prominent role in the importation and discharge of hazardous waste and wondered why “we have not been informed about it.”

Ghana, under the Basel Convention on the trans-boundary movement of waste and toxic chemicals and their disposal, is under obligation to build a facility for the treatment and disposal of hazardous waste.

However, the country is yet to construct a facility for that purpose since it ratified the Basel Convention in 2003.

The 17 containers, labeled as carrying fertilizer bags 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.

The Ghanaian Times investigations over several months, revealed that no one has 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 by name 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 from the port only to resurface after its contents have been entirely discharged.

The source said that some heavy trucks were seen carting the containers away – and its 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 fertilizer.

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 fertilizers for growing crops,” another source at the GSA, added.

By John Vigah

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