LPG stations in residential areas raise alarm (Tuesday, 11 February 2014)


 

There is a growing public concern over the siting of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and fuel stations in residential areas in Accra.

This is in the wake of a gas tanker crash at Kwahu Fodua, near Nkawkaw, that killed eight people and injured more than 20 others, three weeks ago.

According to some residents of Accra, it was about time the authorities concerned, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) and the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS), took quick remedial actions before a major disaster occurred.

Even though there is a guideline that regulates the siting of such services, violations of the regulations by fuel and LPG station owners and some recalcitrant people who build so close to the facilities, are exposing the lives of the public to danger.

The practice is particularly widespread in Accra and other regional capitals where the stations are built very close to homes, shops, churches, offices and even refuse dumps.

Public sentiments

In separate interviews, some residents said it was time for the institutions responsible for giving permits to take a second look at the location of the facilities.

“I think it is time the institutions responsible for giving permits took a second look at the location of these facilities. At best, they should be in isolation. We don’t have to wait until a major disaster occurs before we start talking, by which time it will too late,” George Aryeetey, a resident of Abeka Lapaz, told the Daily Graphic. 

Gloria Okyere, whose house is not far from Manbah Gas, an LPG filling station at Santa Maria Last Stop, said, “The situation is dangerous. We used to live in fear, but now we are used to it. What made it even more dangerous was a rubbish dumping site that has now been shut down. I wish we didn’t have to wake up each morning thinking about it, especially when accidents involving gas happen elsewhere.”

Apart from explosions, other identified risks associated with the installation and operation of LPG refilling plants include air pollution, particularly during discharge, occupational and public health safety and impact on land use.

Worrying statistics

Reports from Daily Graphic archives from 2007 to 2014 indicate that while 39 people died, 186 people sustained various degrees of injury in the 11 reported accidents involving LPG tankers and LPG fuelling stations and domestic calamities.

Out of the 11 accidents, five involved industrial settings — gas stations, fuel stations and a fuel dump — while three were  gas tanker crashes, with the remaining three being domestic accidents.

This shows that more accidents were recorded in industrial settings than domestic, the reason the public is calling on the relevant state institutions to take a second look at the zoning areas for LPG and fuel stations.

By law, safety standards are a requirement for the granting of permits to site gas filling stations but the law has been flouted with impunity in many areas.

Approval for the building of fuel and LPG stations require permits from the regulatory agencies, including the EPA, the Town and Country Planning Department (TCPD), the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) and the assemblies.

Dangerous areas

On the Circle-Achimota road alone, three LPG stations are located within communities and near fitting shops, houses and chop bars — Trinity Gas at Alajo, Nedrap Gas and Amoh Gas at Tesano and Apenkwa, respectively.

In the case of Nedrap Gas, for instance, it is right in the middle of a chain of houses and a carpentry shop.

Also worrying are a number of fuelling stations on the Abeka-Kwashieman stretch of the N1 Highway where Universal Oil, Goil and Trinity are all sited in the middle of shopping centres and close to homes.

On the Kwashieman-Santa Maria road, Star Oil, Benab Oil and Nasoma Oil are sited very close to houses, drinking spots and a church.

EPA solution 

The guidelines for the siting of LPG stations endorsed by the NPA, the EPA, the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, the GNFS, the Ghana Standards Authority, the TCPD and the Factories Inspectorate Department require that the stations renew their permits every 18 months.

That, Mr Kwabena Badu-Yeboah, the EPA Director in charge of the Accra Region, told the Daily Graphic was one of the means through which the EPA used to ensure that public safety was guaranteed.

“When proponents who have existing facilities come and the land size is not up to the minimum required for LPG — 0.5 acre — a special condition is given for them to either acquire additional land to make up for the 0.5 acres or relocate within five years.

Fire Service 

The Deputy Public Relations Officer of the GNFS, Prince Billy Anaglate, said in the face of the present situation, apart from rezoning there was the need for all operators of fuel and LPG stations to be conscious of fire safety.

Closures

The most recent actions taken by the EPA in dealing with the situation were in 2011 and 2013.
In November, 2011, 10 fuel filling stations in the Eastern Region were closed down by the EPA for failing to obtain permits and not meeting safety requirements.

In July, 2013, the agency closed down two gas filling stations in Kumasi because they posed a threat to people in a residential area.

The stations — Natony Gas at Duase and Quarrtan Gas, near Mampongten — were surrounded by residential buildings, which are potential fire hazards.

Writer’s email: seth.bokpe@graphic.com.gh

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