Liberia: Environment Protection Agency Refutes Oil Palm Company Water Pollution Reports

A boy pumps water from a hand pump donated by EPO in Num Town in Kpogbah District, Grand Bassa County

Monrovia – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has refuted media reports that Equatorial Palm Oil (EPO) polluted creeks in Kpogbah District in Grand Bassa.

In a report in June that quoted community residents of claiming that their water sources had been polluted by operations of the company’s oil palm mill and that people were getting sick because of that.

But a report on field visit at the EPO facility on June 2, 2018 by a team of the department of compliance and enforcement of the Grand Bassa Inspectorate of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that that was not true.

The team found that EPO’s factory has not started processing because it is still under construction, blaming the muddying of the nearby Neekpee Creek in Yeaway Camp, on illicit farming activities by migrant individuals residing within the plantation.

“We did not see oil spillage over any creek near the factory but the buffer zones left by the company is under threat by migrant individuals in terms of farming activities, which may be responsible for erosion entering into the creeks, especially during raining season…,” the
EPA team said in its report.

EPO said the findings reflected the truth, based on site observation and inspection.

Yeaway Camp has only 12 EPO camp houses but is home to an estimated 1,500 people, most of which are migrant jobseekers and traders, the report said. The camp is 2,000 feet away from the EPO new factory under construction, it added.

The report also captured interview with resident of Num Town, where the Monkpannee Creek was alleged to have been polluted by the EPO factory.

“Now we don’t drink this water because we have two hand pumps in our town,” Emmanuel Bemgam, Nuhn Town told FrontPage Africa in an interview. “EPO fixed one and [the NGO] Concern fixed one,” he added, saying people of the town had not drunk from the creek for nearly one year.

Town Chief Timothy Yeabah added: “We only use the water to wash clothes with it.

“We don’t know where that [media] report came from because the creek here is not connected to the factory.”

EPO said adjacent communities had set up committee working closely with the company to identify community members to be interviewed and vetted for employment when the factory starts to operate later this year. Thirty-five people will be employed immediately, EPO said.

The report, however, called on EPO to increase awareness on illicit farming along its plantation buffer zones that were conserved by the company, regularize its patrol there, and increase the number of hand pumps in communities adjacent its plantation.

EPO’s 2008 concession agreement gives its 13,007 hectares of land towards the Timbo River. The company has planted on only 6,000 hectares of land so far.