‘Nobody Is Sick’ – Bong Supt. Claims Ahead of EPA Probe
Bong County Superintendent, Esther Yamah Walker, has told The Monrovia Times that the situation in Sayweh Town, Kokoyah District, Bong County, is not alarming as it is being alleged.
Superintendent Walker who visited the area on October 23, 2018, said nobody in the town is sick with the exception of a child who, according to her, was vomiting and subsequently taken to Phebe Hospital for treatment.
At the hospital, the Bong County Superintendent said, the sick child was diagnosed with malaria and ulcer.
Superintendent Walker has stated that a team of experts from the Ministry of Health, Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the county to ascertain the situation that has also led to the closure of the school.
She maintained that the situation is being over exaggerated. The Bong County Superintendent believes that such report is not good for the image of the county.
Superintendent Esther Walker explained that she will make any report that will come from the investigation team public for citizens to understand what is also transpiring in Sayweh Town, Kokoyah District.
At the same time, the Superintendent disclosed that the people of Sayweh Town have filed a lawsuit against MNG Gold.
Superintendent Walker who did not give detail of the lawsuit pointed out that such action by the citizens will not create a smooth working environment between the citizens and the company.
But, it has been widely speculated in the county that the aggrieved citizens took the company to court due to its alleged failure to live to its mining agreement with the government.
However, reports continue to emerge from Sayweh Town residents and other local officials about the alleged sick conditions of at least 19 students of the Sayweh Town Public School.
The illnesses of the students have been attributed to a stockpile of dirt in the operating area of the mining company, MNG Gold.
Many residents of the town are of the belief that the dirt which is closer to the public school contained chemicals and other hazardous wastes from the operating area of MNG Gold.
They said the only hand pump being used by the school and from which students drink is also closer to the dirt.
The residents further suspected that the water from the hand pump has been contaminated by chemicals.
At the same time, some of the citizens in the area accused Superintendent Walker of always speaking in the interest of MNG Gold.
The residents claim that Superintendent Walker and some Lawmakers of the County (names withheld) always defend the company for reasons best known to them.
The Chairman of Bong County Legislative Caucus, Senator Henry Willie Yallah, has categorically refuted the allegation that the Superintendent and other lawmakers of Bong County always defend the company against the best interest of citizens of the area.
Recently, hundreds of aggrieved students in Sayewhen Town and its environs embarked on a two-day peaceful demonstration in the gold-rich Kokoyah District in Bong County following an abrupt closure of the school.
The Monrovia Times gathered that the school has been closed as a result of an alleged chemical spill including cyanide and mercury from a gold mining company, MNG Gold.
It is widely suspected that MNG Gold recently released some chemicals from its operation site into the grounds which allegedly affected the only hand pump at the Sayewhen Town Public School. Students of the public school usually drink water from the hand pump.
This paper also understands that since the chemicals reportedly contaminated the hand pump, students of the school have been drinking the “unsafe” water from the pump.
As a result of the situation, many of the school students are allegedly downed with sicknesses such as diarrhea while others are said to be vomiting blood.
The Monrovia Times further gathered that the situation which led to more than twenty students being seriously impacted prompted the Administration to immediately close the school.
Even though more than twenty students are said to have been affected in the mineral-rich region which is believed to have been the result of drinking from the polluted hand pump, more than three hundred other students took to the street of the Town early this week, with placards which had various inscriptions such as “We want to go back to school; Our school time is passing; Please relocate our school; take the sick people to hospital for treatment.”
The Administration’s decision to close the school is aimed at establishing the actual cause of the problem and the best way to deal with it.
The School administration, through the Registrar, Mr. Eugene Johnson, has stated that the school will remain closed in order to save the lives of the students. He also called for an urgent relocation of the school.
According to our Correspondent who visited the town, MNG Gold chemical tank is approximately ten feet from the school which is very close to the only hand pump.
Our Correspondent says the situation appears like a ‘doomsday’ for both students and other residents of Sayewhen Town and surrounding villages.
“All of my children are sick, I don’t have money to send them to the hospital,” Mary Wamah, a mother of four told The Monrovia Times Correspondent.
She said since they realized that the water from the hand pump was affecting their children, there has been no response from the Company’s Management concerning the matter.
“Our Children are suffering from various sicknesses, some of them are vomiting blood, some do not eat or even drink as usual, and others are feeling weak,” Madam Wamah added.
Also speaking on the issue, an Elder of the Town, Flomo G. Nakulah, said the situation has brought to a complete halt to the children’s learning activities.
He added that the demonstration by the students is aimed at attracting the attention of the company’s management and by extension, the Government of Liberian (GoL) through its concerned ministries and agencies.
“Our children (the ones who are well) are demonstrating in order for the Company to do something now. The situation can’t remain like this and they return to school,” he stressed.
“We strongly believe that the Company will quickly work on the chemical tank to stop the pollution of the drinking water,” he added.
When contacted by The Monrovia Times, the Government Liaison officer, Benedict Sayeh, categorically refuted claims by the town residents that the sick conditions of the students were caused by any pollution of the hand pump by the company.
He stated that the company’s technicians worked very hard to build the tank and as such, there is no way that such tank will release wastes to contaminate the hand pump or groundwater being used by the school and residents.
Mr. Sayeh further stated that he will only believe that the residents’ concern is true when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Bong County Health Team to investigate the matter and announce the outcome of such scientific investigation.
Other citizens in Bong County called on the Government of Liberia to quickly intervene by investigating the situation.