BY PHILIP ANTOH email@example.com
THE COMMITTEE set up by the government to implement Cabinet’s tough decisions to avert, in future, the horrendous gas explosions like the one which occurred at the Atomic Junction in Accra last week and claimed seven lives and injured 132, is expected to hit the ground running today.
At a Cabinet meeting on October 12, 2017, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, on the advice of the Cabinet, directed, among other things, that henceforth the Cylinder Recirculation Model of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) Distribution policy must be implemented.
This model means that LPG Bottling Plants will be sited away from congested commercial centres and other built-up areas and the government will procure, brand, maintain and fill empty cylinders to be distributed to consumers and households through retail outlets.
Low risk stations will also be designated for the supply of gas to vehicles. This whole exercise must be completed within one year.
In the wake of the directive, the DAILY HERITAGE visited over 15 gas and petrol filling stations in Accra to assess the environment in which the petrol and gas filling stations are located.
During the tour, the paper found out that there were many gas and fuel filling stations located in densely populated areas. Some even shared compounds with churches and schools.
In an interview with residents on one hand and gas and fuel filling stations owners/workers on the other, one key issue that ran through was the fact the filling stations managers argued that they settled first before their locations became densely populated.
Residents also accused filling stations of constructing the stations fully aware of the human settlements.
At Dansoman-Asoredanho, the Shell Filling Station is located on the same stretch of land as the KFC Restaurant, and the Allied Filling Station at Sakaman is directly opposite Della Restaurant and bordered by UMB Bank.
The Total and Shell Filling stations along the Obetsebi-Lamptey Roundabout-Kaneshie Market road are directly opposite each at Abossey Okai and close to the spare parts hub in the vicinity. Close to the Dansoman Police Station is a Total filling station that shares a wall with a gas filling station bordered by the police station and a market.
At the Kwame Nkrumah Circle, directly opposite the Goil filling station that blew up on June 3, 2015 is a Shell filling station sharing a land with CAL Bank’s high rise building.
There is also gas a filling station at Odorkor Tipper Junction close to the St. Johns Baptist Church surrounded by traders.
Sky Petroleum at Weija Junction and the Weija-Oblogo-Manchester taxi station are close neighbours and the situation is not different from the case of the Dansoman Junction Allied Filling Station sited in-between Cambridge Preparation/Junior High School and Land Mark Chapel International.
There is also a Goil filling station at Kaneshie Pamprom surrounded by hundreds of spare parts dealers at Abossey Okai.
Not long ago the paper carried two equally worrying stories that warned of potential fire disasters at Odorgonno and Pokuase.
We reproduce the two stories, one by Francisca Emefa Enchill of Kasapa FM, first published on March 9, 2016 and the other by Philip Antoh, published on February 6, 2017:
DANGER LOOMS: SCHOOL SHARES COMPOUND WITH GAS STATION
Investigations by Kasapa FM have discovered that school children of the Odorgonno Senior High School and the Odorgonno Model School, which share the same compound, have been studying in an unsafe environment.
The schools share a wall with Acadian Gas, a Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) station which deals in the sale of gas and other products distributed to them by Ghana Oil Company.
Information gathered indicated that the gas station is actually operating on a portion of the schools’ compound. A wall was recently built by the owner of the gas station to serve as blockade in the event of any disaster, after several confrontations with the authorities of the school and parents of the students and pupils.
During a visit to the school, the Headmistress, Victoria Gyatsen, and teachers disclosed that the operation of the gas station had been interfering with teaching and learning.
According to them, classes are halted whenever the station discharges gas due to the irritating stench discharged into the atmosphere.
They added that whenever that happens, it destructed the attention of the children as they struggled to breathe, and as a result teaching was suspended.
The teachers also expressed concern about the dangers the operations of the station posed to the entire school as there could be an explosion which could claim thousands of lives. The senior high school is made up of 4,000 students, while the basic school is made up of 500 pupils.
The authorities are, therefore, calling on the supervising agencies to intervene and evict the gas station from the compound. They said the land being used for the gas operations belongs to the school but efforts to evict the owner had yielded no results.
“You are doing something which is harmful to me on my land and I say you should leave, why should there be a misunderstanding over this?” distraught Madam Gyatsen quipped.
School has 19 asthmatic pupils
In an interview with some of the pupils of the basic school who are closer to the gas station, the children complained bitterly about the inhaling of gas while in school.
After a class-by-class check by Kasapa News, the news team discovered that the basic school alone had 19 pupils diagnosed of having asthma, who together with other children, had been inhaling the gas.
Some of the pupils who spoke to the team disclosed that they had to always run to the school’s washroom and stay there for a number of minutes to enable them to breathe properly each time the gas is being discharged.
Others also disclosed that they covered their noses with handkerchiefs to aid their breathing to avoid having crisis.
The children felt troubled by the station and passionately cried out to the authorities to evict the owner to give them what the asthmatic pupils described as “freedom and peace.”
Interview with Acadian Gas Station owner
‘Kasapa News’ contacted the owner of the gas station, Samuel France, over the concerns of the school.
Mr France denied responsibility and said his operations posed no risk of any kind to the school.
According to him, the wall the station had built on the same compound to separate it from the school was enough to protect all individuals of the school from any explosion.
He said in case of an explosion, the fire would not go beyond the confines of his gas fuel station.
“The fire will remain on just this compound, it will not spread to the school, and I know my job,” he claimed.
He admitted, however, that he never bought the piece of land on which he was operating from anyone, but rather had it after he wrote an application to the former headmaster of the school whose name he only mentioned as Mr Kumi to use the land.
He added that he acquired a work permit from the Ghana National Fire Service, the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to undertake his business on the school’s land.
He said the EPA, before approving his permit, visited the school to monitor the discharge of gas and after spending 30 minutes, declared the place safe for his operations.
When asked, as a parent, what he thinks about the children inhaling gas, Mr France indicated that, “There is nothing wrong with them, the children are safe.”
In an interview with the President of the National Private Medical and Dental Association, Dr Isaac Morrison, on the dangers of inhaling LPG, he disclosed that its implications are life-threatening.
According to Dr Morrison, LPG is a hydrocarbon and when inhaled by humans, it reacts in the blood vessels and worries the immune system.
He elaborated that it could compress the bone marrow of humans and have toxic effect on the cells in the bone marrow, thereby rendering the cells incapable of producing blood for the body, hence causing a person to become anaemic.
The consequent effects of being anaemic when left untreated, he said, are severe fatigue, pregnancy complications, heart problems and death.
In the case of the school children who are asthmatic, he added that inhaling anything patients of the disease are allergic to could spark an attack, adding that one of the things they are allergic to is hydrocarbons.
“If the children fail to get medical attention within the shortest possible time while under attack after inhaling the LPG, the consequence is death.”
Dr Morrison went further to caution the entire country to be cautious of the smell of LPG as it is an indication of a leakage whether in public or in the domestic setting, which has hash medical implications.
Mr Kofi Arhim Ghansah, the Parent Teacher Association chairman of the school, who doubles as Disaster Control Officer at the National Disaster Management Organisation, said gas explosion travels very long distances.
According to him, the entire school and some homes around the station would be consumed by fire in case of an explosion.
This, he said, exposed the school to great danger as, according to him, the walls built by the station would give the school no protection.
A visit to GA Central Assembly
The schools’ authorities disclosed that per the order of command in their setting, they reported their ordeal to the Ga Central Assembly.
‘Kasapa News’ visited the assembly to ascertain whether or not the schools’ ordeal had been brought before them.
Charles Quartey, Municipal Coordinating Director, Ga Central, admitted receiving the report from the school.
According to him, the Assembly, after the school’s complaint, visited the school where they experienced what the school authorities were talking about.
Mr Quartey admitted that they inhaled the gas themselves because as at the time of their visit, the station was discharging gas.
Following their experience, he said the assembly wrote to the NPA to withdraw the permit given to Acadian Gas.
Mr Quartey gave ‘Kasapa News’ Friday, February 26, 2016, to join the assembly to the gas station to lock up the place to stop the operations.
On the set date, Kasapa FM went to the Ga Central Assembly to join them as they indicated, only to be told that their decision had changed following court sermons handed over to the assembly by a bailiff over a suit by Acadian Gas.
MORE GAS DISASTERS LOOM: AS CHURCHES, RESIDENTIAL HOUSES SHARE WALLS WITH GAS FILLING STATION
The dormant attitude of some regulatory bodies at the Ga West Municipal Assembly in the Greater Accra Region exposes residents around Pokuase, Festus area, to a grave danger as churches and residential houses share walls with gas filling stations.
This has come because the Town and Country Planning Department of the assembly has failed to crack the whip to stop land developers from building close to the gas filling stations in two separate incidents within the Pokuase area.
Currently, at the Trade Cross Gas Filling Station adjacent Festus Hotel on the Pokuase-Amasaman Highway, the gas station shares a wall with residential houses on the right and boundary with a Presbyterian Church on the left which is under construction.
At the site at St. Acheam 4 Company Limited, another gas filling station also on the Pokuase-Amasaman Highway at the left-hand side has Pannel Worship Center to the right and a hotel springing up on the left.
Checks by your authoritative DAILY HERITAGE have revealed that all these facilities claimed they have certified documentations by the regulatory authorities within the assembly to operate their activities in the area.
Again the two gas filling stations claimed they have regularly meet the certification and standard by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Petroleum Authority (NPA) and the Ghana Fire Service and therefore have the legal spectrum to operate.
Speaking to the Chief Operations Officer of Trade Cross Gas, Mr Kofi Asare-Berkoh, said the gas filling station was giving the necessary permit to operate in the area at the time where no residential house or building was built and therefore wonders why the assembly permitted land developers to build close to the facility.
“I wonder why the assembly did not stop the Presbyterian Church from building close to the facility knowing well that there is a gas filling station here,” he questioned.
The Supervisor of Acheam 4 Company Limited, Mrs Cynthia Gyanfuah Tetteh told the paper that upon noticing the building of Pannel Worship Centre close to the facility, “we made an official complain to the assembly on several occasion.”
Mrs Tetteh added that after realising that nothing is being done, “I went to the assembly and brought some officials of Town and Country Planning to stop the building projects but they still went ahead and completed the building.”
Some senior Presbyters in charge of the building project told the paper that the Assembly has certified them to build the church after they met with management of the gas station and the assembly who press upon them to change their building plan.
However, all efforts to contact the head pastor of Pannel Worship Centre and the owner of the hostel close to Acheam 4 Company Limited proved futile.
At the Town and Country Planning
At the Town and Country Planning Department at the Assembly, after waiting for three hours, last Wednesday, February 2, 2017, the secretary to the director asked the reporter to go back to the field and demand for permit of operators meanwhile they are the local regulatory body to grant permit.
EPA and Fire Service
Mrs Sally Biney, the EPA Accra West Regional Head told the DAILY HERITAGE that, the two gas filling stations have the necessary certification to operate after certifying all the conditions of the mother body, the NPA.
Mrs Biney said the two facilities have also renewed their permits, pass all the necessary regulatory rules and safety precautions while checks at the Municipal Fire Station also confirmed that they two bodies have meet the requirement.
However, taking a cue from the recent gas disasters at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle and La, residents in the areas still fear for their lives.
With the two stories appreciated, we now revisit the recent Atomic Junction gas explosion, because of developments following it.
A statement signed by the Minister for Information, Mr Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, said in the interim, the President has directed that certain steps be taken to give comfort to and ensure the safety of our citizens:
That immediate inspection of all gas stations, review of the current licensing regime, institution of mandatory training and certification of the staff of regulators, Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) and LPG Marketing Companies be carried out to ensure the safe handling of LP and review the safety protocols along the entire value chain through the combined efforts of the industry players.
Others steps adopted by the government are deployment of a task force, within 30 days, to assess the risk that our current LPG infrastructure poses; the immediate incorporation of standards and guidelines developed by Ghana Standards Authority on the handling, storage and distribution of LPG and other petroleum products; expediting of action by the Fire Service and the Police Service in on-going investigations; and immediate cessation, until further notice, of all construction of facilities intended for use as gas or petroleum retail stations.