EPA Releases Preliminary Findings on River Contamination in Cape Mount

EPA Executive Director, Prof. Wilson Tarpeh.   

— Discovered 'higher than permissible levels of free cyanide' linked the Bea Mountain

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of Liberia has released preliminary findings from its investigation of the alarming case of water pollution in Grand Cape Mount County, allegedly caused by Bea Mountain Mining Corporation.

Following the discovery of dead fish and a dog in the Marvoe Creek and the Mafa River in Grand Cape Mount County, the EPA launched an investigation by a high-level technical team. The EPA investigation included a visit to the affected communities on Wednesday, May 25, 2022. 

In a press statement released late Friday, June 3, the EPA said its visit was based on reported deaths of aquatic species in the Marvoe Creek and the Mafa River in Grand Cape Mount County, as conveyed on several media platforms and corroborated by an incident notice filed by Bea Mountain Mining Corporation on May 24, 2022.

“During the visit,” EPA said, “the team conducted scientific investigations downstream of Bea Mountain operations and continued upstream to assess the quality of the water, probe the authenticity of the alleged pollution and trace plausible source(s) of pollution. The initial phase of the investigation included collection of samples, social interviews, community engagement, environmental scoping, geospatial data and drone imagery.” 

Below are the EPA’s preliminary findings: 

First, there were deaths to aquatic species including fish, crabs, crawfish, and other fauna inhabitants; and these fatalities were caused by asphyxiation (deprivation of oxygen needed to sustain life under water). 

The analysis results showed higher than permissible levels of free cyanide (with source from the BMMC Tiling Storage Facility) resulting in a corresponding reduction in dissolved oxygen level. However, at the time of sampling, the level of free cyanide was below the limits scientifically required to cause such fatality as found in the circumstance. We need to and will probe further especially when there are other conditions that could cause this degree of distress and or death of the aquatic fauna.

That the presence of excess cyanide led to the contamination of the water sources and that the situation has severely disrupted and injured the livelihood of the communities that depend on those water resources for their livelihood. 

Consistent with its standard operating procedures, the EPA convened an emergency technical sitting and BMMC was presented with the findings of our initial investigation.  

Based on the outcome of the investigation, the EPA has called on BMMC to continue its ongoing effort to provide safe drinking water, fish, and other protein sources to residents of downstream communities. 

Meanwhile, the Agency advises that until a final determination is made as to full remedial actions and their orderly implementation, all affected communities should desist from using and or consuming anything from the water bodies and or using these contaminated water sources for any purpose. 

In the coming days, the Agency will conduct additional investigation to pinpoint other elements that may have also contributed to the asphyxiation. Where necessary, a third-party, EPA certified consultant/Laboratory will be called in to assist with these investigations. 

Furthermore, a detailed assessment of the water streams will be conducted to determine the magnitude and extent of the quality of the water streams and to conduct an aquatic ecological assessment of the riverine systems. Following this additional scientific intervention, a full restoration plan (corrective measures) will be designed and implemented under the supervision of the Environmental Protection Agency. 

The Agency calls on the public to remain calm and non-speculative. The Agency continues this very methodical, rigid, and scientific, but necessary process.

The Agency reaffirms its commitment to ensuring a clean, healthy, and safe environment for this and succeeding generations.