LIBERIA: EPA seeks HOR Support Amid East International Dust Toxicity Along RIA Road

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The Acting Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr. Emmanuel Urey Yarkparwolo, is advocating for political and budgetary support from the 55th National Legislature.
Dr. Yarkparwolo is seeking the House of Representatives’ assistance in enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of the EPA as a revenue-generating entity for the national government. His comments come amidst reports of some entities and companies adopting a non-compliant posture towards the EPA’s operations in fulfilling its duties.
These deliberations took place during a meeting convened by the House Joint Committee on Public Works, Rural Development, and Health in the speaker’s conference room on February 28, 2024. The objective of the meeting was to address issues related to toxic dust allegedly causing respiratory ailments and other health issues along the 45km RIA road construction project.
In preparation for this meeting, the Agency dispatched a team of environmental technicians from the Environmental Research and Radiation Safety Department to conduct a preliminary assessment of the situation. The purpose of the assessment was to evaluate air quality at random points along the construction area, conduct physical inspections, and gather residents’ feedback on the dust situation.
To investigate claims made by community members, EPA technicians conducted a study on the operations of East International company, focusing on compliance audits, physical observations, air quality testing, and community perception surveys to gauge the views of residents in the affected areas.
The findings of the EPA’s investigation revealed that East International Company’s EPA permit had expired since January 31, 2024, and there were several occupational health and safety issues recorded onsite. Additionally, there were no records of quarterly and terminal monitoring reports submitted by the company, and inadequate personal protective equipment was provided for workers, among other violations. Moreover, East International did not adhere to regulations, and enforcement was hindered by past political influences.
The findings further revealed that Particulate Matter 2.5 or PM 2.5, a dust particle easily inhaled and causing respiratory problems, averaged 42.6ug/m³, exceeding the World Health Organization’s (WHO) permissible limit of 15ug/m³.
Regarding the community survey, approximately 83% of the interviewed individuals reported constant dust occurrence in their environment during afternoon hours, with respiratory problems such as coughing and asthma being major health concerns.
Based on these findings, the EPA intends to engage with East International to rectify their compliance status by renewing their license, and addressing other environmental irregularities identified during previous compliance monitoring interventions. The EPA will ensure that East International management takes immediate steps to implement all EPA permit conditions related to the environment, health, and safety to reduce dust levels to acceptable standards.
Furthermore, the EPA recommends that East International management implement traffic control measures to reduce truck speeds during working hours and ensure other road safety measures, as emphasized by the EPA Director during a House Committee hearing.

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