By Lansana Fofanah.
Residents around the Wellington/Calaba Town area have registered their deep frustration over the disposure of waste products by the Sierra Leone Brewery Limited in their community.
The community which hosts about 45,000 residents has been described as a polluted environment by those living there, as every time the company offloads its waste product, it will be difficult for them to breath freely due to the offensive odor of the waste.
The company has three drainage holes from its fence where waste products in the form of liquid flows to the drainage at the back of the fence and emptied in the communities.
It was a daunting task to get anyone on record since most of them have given up their pursuits for authorities to hold Brewery accountable for the environmental damage it has been causing as nothing seems to be done despite their continuous cries.
Speaking to this medium, Mohamed Sesay, a resident living at the back of the Brewery fence said that, they have been living in this hazardous condition for years without government or authorities doing anything to bring Brewery to book. “Whenever they empty the smelling water in the gutter, the whole environment down to Calaba Town becomes uncomfortable and sometimes, people cannot breathe freely due to the harshness of the chemical in their throat. Many people have been complaining about severe headache which could likely be related to this chemical waste, but we don’t have the medical facility to test how this is affecting our lives”, he said.
The incumbent Councilor, Osman Tolo Koroma of Ward 404, Constituency 114 said that, the issue of Brewery’s environmental pollution does not stop with the waste been deposited in the gutter, but also the smoke emanating from the factory, affects residents greatly.
“When I was a boy, the drainage you see there used to be a garden where all sorts of garden activities took place. That alone helped to sustain the livelihood of many families. But now, the place has been contaminated in a way that nothing ever grows there again. The drainage has now turned to a breeding ground for mosquitoes, and the bore holes which happen to be sources of water for the community, have been contaminated, and can only be used now for laundering”, he said.
Councilor Koroma said that when Brewery had its public disclosure recently, he put forward the concerns of the Calaba Town community residents who had not been benefiting from either job opportunity or Corporate Social Responsibility from Brewery.
According to him, the company has only been paying attention to Wellington areas since the factory is located there.
When asked whether he had made any complaints about the company to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), he said that in 2013, he recommended to EPA not to renew the company’s license until they own up to their responsibilities. That according to him helped drew some attention to their plight.
“We have only benefitted from Brewery when they partnered with Heineken Foundation in 2016 which has seen the sponsor of a health center that is under construction around Calaba Town market.
Reaching out to the Corporate Affairs Assistant of Brewery, Mr. Unisa Conteh, he declined to comment or grant any interview until an official letter is sent to the company stating questions to be asked.
Mr. Conteh however said that in order to address the issue of waste, a Waste Water Treatment Plant was installed some years ago where all waste from the company is treated chemically for it not to affect the community before throwing it in the drainage.
When further asked why they should not find a means of depositing the waste water within the company’s compound, he said that, the drainage is the only place available where diffused wastes are dumped.
In an interview with the Assistant Deputy Director of Field Operation at the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), Mr. Joseph S. Turay, he said that the last time their field supervisors visited the company for inspection was in July 2017, and the sample collected there from the waste, was tested in their mini lab which proved that the waste was not harmful.
So far, Brewery has been working towards maintaining laid down principles as it has bought a Waste Water Treatment Plant to treat waste products before disposing them in the community drainage.
Before EPA renews the license of any company, it always ensures that the terms and conditions of operations are met. Those terms and conditions stipulate how they should operate in terms of environmental best practice”, he said.
Mr. Turay said that at the conclusion of every field monitoring, recommendations are highlighted and stakeholders of that company are called upon to adopt certain measures for the safety of the environment.
Mr. Turay assured this medium that, another check will be done immediately to ascertain whether the company has so far been operating according to EPA’s standard.
Sierra Leone Brewery Limited has been operating in Sierra Leone for over fifty years. The company is situated in the Eastern populated part of Freetown; the capital city of Sierra Leone.
The company is largely known for producing alcoholic beverages.