Days after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered two steel factories – United Steel and Rider Steel to shut down for not complying with Ghana’s environmental safety regulations, only one of them, Rider Steel has complied.
A visit to the United Steel factory last Thursday saw factory workers still at post and smoke emissions as bad as earlier checks done by JoyBusiness.
Managing Director of Rider Steel, T. P Patnaik told JoyBusiness “we have shut down production and are doing everything to meet the EPA’s regulations.”
According to him, “Rider Steel is confident of fixing all challenges by August.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on July 1, ordered the two steel factories – United Steel and Rider Steel to shut down for not complying with Ghana’s environment safety regulations.
The order followed investigations by JoyBusiness on how smoke emissions by some steel factories at the Free Zones enclave are not just polluting the atmosphere but also endangering the lives of factory workers.
Deputy Executive Director of the EPA, Ebenezer K. Appah-Sampong told JoyBusiness a taskforce has been deployed to the site to ensure both steel factories have indeed shut down.
"As per the procedures when you have such noncompliance issues you engage them after your investigations and then agree on a certain roadmap to ensure that it is fixed permanently, our records indicate that we have exhausted that process and we are not waiting anymore we wrote to the two companies on the first of July to shut down operations and then fix the problem before we can allow them to work," he said.
Upon visiting some steel factories at the Free Zones Enclave in Tema, one is met with plumes of smoke.
The thick smoke darkens the environment making it hard to see or breathe. Some workers of MND Metals Co Ltd who are mostly victims of the pollution complained of respiratory issues.
One such worker, Felix, narrated how he “visited the hospital frequently since starting this job”. Other workers also claimed of “coughing blood” and “feeling week” after hours of working in such a polluted environment.
Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) action
Information picked up earlier at the office of the Acting Executive Director for the EPA, John A. Pwamang, indicated that “letters have been served manufacturing companies flouting environment regulations to either shut down or comply”.
Health publications have shown that the presence of chemicals, particulates or biological compounds in the atmosphere can harm human and animal health and damage the environment.
Factories and other industrial installations have caused such pollution since the dawn of the industrial age by burning fuels, carrying out chemical processes and releasing dust and other particulates and Ghana is no exception.
Ghana ranked 124 in the 2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) which ranks 180 countries on environmental health and ecosystem vitality. What this means is that the country has performed poorly when it comes to being environmentally safe.
Poor air quality kills people. Worldwide, bad outdoor air caused an estimated 4.2 million premature deaths in 2016 out of which about 90 per cent of them are in low- and middle-income countries like Ghana. That’s according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
In Ghana, WHO estimates that air pollution from all sources caused about 28,000 deaths in 2016, over 4,000 of them being children under the age of 16.
In the Greater Accra Region alone, outdoor pollution caused some 2,000 deaths in 2017, the WHO asserts.