EPA to remove gas stations from residential areas (April 8, 2015) Front



The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says it will, by the end of next year, remove all Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) stations in residential areas that fail to meet the guidelines for the establishment of such business.

As part of the guidelines, the operators of LPG stations are required to locate their stations on at least half an acre of land.

In an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday, Mr Kwabena Badu-Yeboah, the Accra Regional Director of the EPA, said all existing LPG stations located in residential areas which did not meet those guidelines would be removed.

The guidelines for the siting of LPG stations endorsed by the National Petroleum Authority (NPA), the EPA, the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS), the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA), the Town and Country Planning Department  (TCPD) and the Factories Inspectorate Department require that the stations renew their permits every 18 months.

That requirement, Mr Badu-Yeboah explained, was one of the means by which the EPA could guarantee public safety.
 
Last Monday, two persons, including a 70-year-old man, sustained severe burns when a gas tank in a car parked at a filling station near the Wesley Grammar Senior High School at Dansoman in Accra exploded.
Angry residents of Dansoman who besieged the premises of the filling station immediately the incident occurred forced the owner to close the station.

LPG station earlier denied permit
Commenting on the Dansoman gas explosion, Mr Badu-Yeboah said the station had initially been denied a permit by the EPA but was given the green light to operate after its owner had gone to court to fight the decision.

“We had a problem with that location in 2005 when the proponent applied for a permit.  Based on the assessment done by the EPA in the area, we declined to give the permit because the station would be opposite residential facilities,” he explained.

However, the owner appealed to the then Minister of Environment and Science, Ms Christine Churcher, and in accordance with Regulation 27 of the Environmental Assessment Regulation LI 1652 of 1999.

The regulation states: “A person aggrieved by decision or action of the agency may submit a complaint in writing to the minister. The complaint shall be submitted to the minister within 30 days of the complainant becoming aware of the decision or action to which the complaint relates.”

Subsequently, the minister set up a committee that recommended that the permit be granted but the EPA again refused it, compelling the applicant to go to court.

The High Court, Mr Yeboah said, ruled in favour of the applicant, adding, “For us at the EPA, we were not going to give the permit but we were forced to give it because of the court action.”

The court’s decision, he said, had been based on the recommendations of the committee set up by the minister.

Currently, he said, the station had been shut down, while the vehicle that supplied the station with LPG was to be moved out of the yard.

Foreseen catastrophe
A Daily Graphic publication of February 11, 2014 drew regulators’ attention to a  growing public concern over the siting of LPG and fuel stations in residential areas in Accra.

That was in the wake of a gas tanker crash at Kwahu Fodua, near Nkawkaw, that killed eight people and injured more than 20 others in January that year.

According to some residents of Accra, it was about time the authorities concerned, including the EPA, the NPA and the GNFS, took quick remedial actions before a major disaster occurred.

Even though there are guidelines that regulate the siting of such services, violation of the regulations by fuel and LPG station owners and some recalcitrant people who build so close to the facilities has exposed 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.

Dangerous areas
On the Circle-Achimota road alone, three LPG stations are located within communities and near fitting shops, houses and chop bars.

Worrying statistics
Reports in Daily Graphic archives from 2007 to 2014 indicate that while 39 people died, 186 people sustained various degrees of injury in 11 reported accidents involving LPG tankers, LPG 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 of 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.

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