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General News of Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Source: GNA

Water Bodies in Obuasi and Tarkwa Poisoned

Accra, Aug. 18, GNA - Water bodies in Obuasi and Tarkwa areas have been poisoned as a result of mining activities, a report launched by WACAM, a nongovernmental organisation engaged in advocacy in mining communities, said on Tuesday.

Presenting the report at a media encounter in Accra, Mr Samuel Obiri, a Research Fellow and Executive Director of the Centre for Environmental Impact Analysis (CEIA), said the seriousness of the situation as far as environmental and water pollution in mining communities in Ghana were concerned, required the joint collaboration of the Government and stakeholders to provide alternate potable water for the inhabitants. The report titled "Determination of heavy metals in water bodies in Tarkwa and Obuasi Mining Areas," was carried out with the support of OXFAM America.

The research found out that most of the rivers in the mining areas of Obuasi and Tarkwa were polluted with elevated levels of hazardous chemicals, which were far above the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Ghana Environmental Protection Agency's (GEPA) permissible levels. It cited examples such as the river Nyam in Obuasi, which had arsenic concentration of 13.56 milligrams per litre (mg/L) as against 0.01 mg/L required by the WHO and Ghana Environmental Protection Agency's (GEPA) permissible level of 1.0 mg/L. River Asuakoo had 22.72 mg/L manganese concentration as against 0.4 mg/L manganese concentration required under WHO permissible guideline value.

Mr Obiri said manganese, lead and mercury, which were found in the water bodies, were neuro-toxic metals that could affect the intelligence quotient of children if they existed in high levels in their drinking water.

He said in all 400 water samples, made up of 200 from Obuasi and 200 from Tarkwa areas were collected between May and September 2008 and analyzed separately for toxic chemicals including arsenic, manganese, cadmium, iron, copper, mercury, zinc and lead. He said physico-chemical parameters such as the pH; conductivity; turbidity and total dissolved solids were measured using standard methods of analysis as prescribed by the American Water Works Association (AWWA, 1998).

Mr Obiri said the turbidity of some of the water bodies and alternate source of water provided had low pH and high turbidity values, which exceeded the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Ghana Environmental Protection Agency's (GEPA) permissible limits. He recommended that regular follow-up studies to measure the levels of heavy metals and other toxic chemicals in water bodies in the study areas be carried out to further substantiate the study, document improvements and ascertain the level of degradations. He further called on mining companies, Government, Minerals Commission, Water Resources Commission, Ghana Water Company Limited and the District Assemblies in the study areas to adopt a method or technology to remove the high levels of toxic chemicals from the water bodies in these mining communities.

Mr Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, Executive Director of WACAM, called for an amendment to and enforcement of the Mineral and Mining Law, to make it more binding on mining operations and to address the degraded environmental situation in mining communities. He noted that the current Mineral and Mineral Law had numerous gaps that allowed too much flexibility in the operations of mining companies, leading to excessive exploitation of minerals; land degradation; pollution of water bodies and the maltreatment of the people living in these communities.

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