Does EPA have authority to close businesses?
Dear Mirror Lawyer, Officers from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) appeared suddenly at my wayside chop bar and closed it down on account of urinary waste and the wastewater from cooking emptied into the nearby untarred street.
The Metropolitan authorities have not provided any outlet for waste disposal in the vicinity, so it is not my fault that the waste has found its own outlet. Is it the work of the EPA to close businesses?
Maame Aba, Accra New Town.
Dear Maame, Under the Environmental Protection Agency Law, the Agency is charged with the responsibility, among others, to:
- Control and prevent the discharge of waste into the environment and further protect and improve the quality of the environment;
- Issue environmental permits for controlling the volume, types, constituents and effects of waste discharges, emissions, deposits or other source of pollutants and of substances which are hazardous or potentially dangerous to the quality of the environment or any segment of the environment;
- Prescribe standards and guidelines relating to the pollution of air, water, land and other forms of environmental pollution including the discharge of wastes and the control of toxic substances;
The Environmental Act provides a penalty of a fine, imprisonment or both for breach of any provisions of the Act and Regulations.
It is also a criminal offence to carry on a ‘noxious, an offensive, or a noisy business at a place to impair or endanger the health of the public inhabiting or using the neighbourhood of that place or as to cause material damage to the lands, crops, cattle, or goods, of the public.
Using the untarred road as the outlet for wastewater from your cooking and the urine of your customers poses a health hazard to the public because it allows the possibility of untreated human waste matter coming into contact with humans, children and animals.
Also, emptying the waste into the road and the attendant collection of the liquid into a pool is another health hazard.
Discharging urine and wastewater into the environment contravenes the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act of 1994, Act 490 and the Regulations made under it.
As quoted above, it is the responsibility of the EPA to check such activities and protect the public from the dangers associated with them.
I advise that you stop releasing your waste into the street and construct a proper washroom approved by the authorities for use by your customers. You could then arrange with officials of the Metropolitan Assembly and District Environmental officers to inspect your place and, if satisfied, will grant you a licence to operate your bar.