Residents, EPA clash over siting of fuel station

Some residents of Abavana Junction within Kotobabi in the Ayawaso Central Municipality and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are on a collision course over the construction of a fuel station in the vicinity.

While the EPA has said the siting of the facility was in compliance with required proximity to public buildings, the residents insist their lives and property were being put in danger.

The disagreement between the two parties, who have held stakeholder meetings since September last year, manifested yesterday when officials of EPA undertook a site verification visit in an attempt to put the matter to rest.

Per the guidelines of the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) for siting petroleum retail outlets, such a facility should be 60 metres radius to public buildings such as a school, market, hospital or church.

The disputed fuel station is being developed by Cash Oil Company Limited. It came under contention in September last year when about 100 residents petitioned the EPA over public safety concerns.

According to them, there were three public buildings within the 60 metre radius, including two schools and a church, which justified their request for the intended facility to be relocated.

However, during the site verification exercise yesterday, the measurement by the EPA officials showed that the only recognised public building, a school nearby, was about 80 metres away.

Additionally, EPA Executive Director, Dr Henry Kokofu,said the church was a rented facility in a commercial building, hence could not be a justification for the permits given to the fuel station developers to be revoked.

To enhance public safety and allay the fears of residents, Dr Kokofu said developers of the facility would be made to reinforce their walls and beef up fire safety mechanisms, after a stakeholder meeting.

Reacting to the development, one of the petitioners, Caroline Fergusson, said the measurement was inconsistent with an earlier one done by the EPA, where the measurement was taken from the boundaries instead of the centre of the site.

“It has been over five months since we started this petition. EPA has asked the developers to stop work five times. In between times, they continued to work.  I am surprised that the basis of measurement has changed today,” she said.

Ms Fergusson insisted that the lives were being risked and cited past explosions at fuel stations across the country like the Atomic Junction and Circle ones which claimed more than 100 lives and maimed others.

She called on regulatory authorities to do due diligence in the interest of the public and called on policy makers to review the regulations on siting of fuel stations, to protect the public.

Asked if the residents would consider legal action, she said “when we get to the bridge, we will cross it”.

Efforts to get clarity on the standard method of measurement from the NPA were not successful as of the time of filing this report.

BY JONATHAN DONKOR

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