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Concrete mixing plant undermines health, inflicts pains on Onikan residents

By Gbenga Salau
06 February 2022   |   4:19 am
For some time now, residents of Ajasa and Boyle streets in the Onikan area of Lagos State have been experiencing serious pains and discomfort due to the activities of a concrete mixing plant.

Workers on duty at the plant site. PHOTO: Gbenga Salau

Defies Govt Order To Stop Work
For some time now, residents of Ajasa and Boyle streets in the Onikan area of Lagos State have been experiencing serious pains and discomfort due to the activities of a concrete mixing plant.

Since Levitikal Reality and Construction Stationary Concrete Batching Plant was set up in November last year, some residents insist that the facility has made life unbearable for them with the noise and effluent that it generates, which constitute a dire health hazard.

Even though the residents have brought their plight to the knowledge of the outfit, as well as to the attention of environmental and planning regulatory agencies, operations at the company have continued unabated to the chagrin of the residents.

A resident, Biyi Bandele, said that the plant has been spewing a very high quantity of toxic, cement dust into the air in an area that is supposed to be a residential neighbourhood, which also plays home to schools and a hospital since late 2021.

He explained that as early as 5 am till late at night, concrete mixer trucks begin to arrive at the plant. “And as one filled truck departs, several others arrive and the traffic remains that way from Monday to Saturday.
This is in addition to the loud noise that constantly fills the air.

“I have seen trucks arriving at that plant through the Ajasa Street entrance as late as 11 pm. My apartment overlooks factory, as does that of several of my neighbours.”

Even though the firm commenced operations last November, things got a bit rowdier last month. “From around January 22, 2022, the plant also became a service centre for the concrete mixer trucks. This servicing partly involves using a deafeningly loud drill to do, I don’t know what on the trucks. This drilling has been going on every single day (from as early as 7 am till well after 8 pm) for the past two weeks.”

He maintained that the activities of the concrete plant and truck-servicing centre constitute a serious and immediate hazard to the health of residents of the neighbourhood.

Bandele, therefore, urged the state government to do the needful and save them from the brazen impunity displayed by the firm.

According to him, after some residents complained, the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) officials paid a visit to the plant and issued a stop-work order on the company two weeks ago, but it has ignored the agency’s order.

Besides the impact on human health, The Guardian was informed that a section of the fence of the Lagos State Traditional Medicine Board collapsed as a result of vibrations associated with the activities of the plant.

Two other residents, Lateef Onikoyi, an engineer, and Kaine Amachree, corroborated the comments of Bandele.

According to Onikoyi, a meeting was held between the company and some residents after a follow-up complaint to LASEPA, but some of the resolutions reached between the company and residents, as brokered by LASEPA, are not being adhered to by the company.

“It is like the company is not ready to abide by any of the resolutions contained in the agreement. The noise from the plants is very disturbing. All you need to do is pay a visit to the site around this time of the day to witness the noise pollution.”

He also complained about the rampant parking of heavy-duty trucks along the narrow streets in the neighbourhood, stressing that the area is a residential one that is not fit for such operations.

On her part, Amachree said that considering the manner that the company carries out its activities, it has no respect for the community, nor the health and wellbeing of its residents.

“They have used some sort of influence to set up an illicit industrial cement batching plant in a purely residential zone. The site where the company is located has been vacant for many years, due to an ongoing legal battle over the ownership of the property. When
I started noticing activities on the property, I thought that they were a construction company set up to construct a building, but I was wrong. This company has no regard for the fact that Onikan is what I call a residential soft zone. However, there are also health clinics, hospitals, a new school and small businesses within the community.”

Amachree continued: “The noise and vibration caused by the heavy-duty vehicles, have affected the perimeter fence of some property in the area. The vehicles invade the narrow Ajasa Street, even as they are carelessly parked by their drivers thereby negatively affecting the flow of incoming and outgoing vehicular traffic.

“I believe that residents of Ajasa Street were not happy with the manner that the trucks were using their street, so they stopped them from entering there. The next thing I saw was that they broke their perimeter wall on Boyle Street and commenced the mounting of a gate so that they could have a second access point for their trucks and vehicles.”

Amachree, who said that the trucks struggled to enter the property on Boyle Street because it is a narrow street, added, “their attitude is one of no regard for other people’s property. They are causing damage to power generating plants through the effluent emanating from their plant. They have no business being in Onikan because there are special zones for this type of outfit. I have no understanding of how they were permitted to commence operations in Onikan, or if they just decided to use the empty property because it was at a convenient location. The effluent from the plant is making life worse for residents.”

Amachree disagreed with LASEPA for allegedly permitting the company to continue operations at the location for another three months.

“I don’t know the terms and conditions of them staying on. Will they ensure the integrity of all the walls that have been affected? Will they take the necessary measures to do something about the pollution that they are causing, and the damage to residents’ power generating plants etc? Will they repair the roads that their vehicles are causing more damage to? To be frank, the roads are already in a very poor state. The type of industrial vehicles being in and out of this area will further degrade the streets.”

Conflicting messages have been bandied around regarding the duration of time that the firm would operate there before relocating. While the company agreed with LASEPA that it would complete its operations in three months, it is alleged to be telling others that it would leave in six months.

When The Guardian visited the plant, the seals affixed by LASEPA and the Lagos State Planning Permit Agency (LASPPA) were still on the gate, but the plant’s management opened up the pedestrian gate for its workers to gain access into the complex.

Workers were sited within the plant working, while several trucks were stationed in front of the plant.

It was also observed that process of rebuilding the fence of the traditional medicine board that collapsed has commenced.

The section of the Traditional Medicine Board fence pulled down by the plant’s activities

An environmental chemist, Dr. Temilola Oluseyi, said there were serious implications on human health when such plants are sited within residential areas.

“Air pollution has been identified as a major environmental problem associated with respiratory diseases and reduced life expectancy. A cement plant can be an important source of air pollutants. Respiratory diseases, skin damage, and digestion problems are some of the health challenges that a population that lives within the fringes of a cement plant is susceptible to.

“Air pollution from cement manufacturing is becoming an environmental problem worldwide. Recent studies have established relationships between cement air pollution and human health diseases.

“Cement plants generate particulate matter (PM) during the processing of raw material and also packaging. The particulate matter released increases the presence of total suspended particulates, which cause a high accumulation of dust in residential areas.”

She noted that human exposure to these suspended particulates could affect human health and wellbeing, as emissions of total suspended particulates contain harmful pollutants, such as potentially toxic metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, silica, and toxic gases such as oxides of sulphur (SOx) – respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis are seen to increase with sulphur oxide levels.

“In man, the adverse effect of Nitrogen Dioxide affects body functions such as difficulty in breathing, chronic lung diseases, like inflammation and irreversible structural changes in the lungs, which with repeated exposure, can lead to premature ageing of the lungs and other respiratory illness.

“Another gas that can be released from concrete mixing of cement is carbon monoxide (CO), which can cause harmful health effects by reducing oxygen delivery to organs and tissues in the body, as well as adverse effects on the cardiovascular and central nervous systems. CO can also contribute to the formation of smog, which can cause respiratory problems.”

According to her, particulate emissions contain potentially harmful, potentially toxic metals such as lead, chromium, nickel, which can pose a serious health impact on human health.

“These emissions contain toxic carcinogens, mutagens, immunotoxins, respiratory toxins, neurological toxins etc. The main route of entry of dust particles in the body is the respiratory tract or the gastrointestinal tract or both by inhalation or swallowing. When Particulate matter (diameter less than 10µm) are inhaled, they penetrate deep into the respiratory system and particulate matter less than 2.5 µm go on to the lungs and pass into the bloodstream. It has been found that short-term exposure to particulate matter (PM2.5) significantly increases the risk for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

“PM can also cause eye and throat irritation, bronchitis, lung damage, increased mortality rates, and increased heart ailment. Plant productivity is also affected by cement dust due to reduced chlorophyll content of the leaves, which obstruct the photosynthesis process of the leaves of the plants,”

On why the plant is being allowed to operate for another three months despite the hazard that its activities pose to residents, a staff of LASEPA said that the matter would be investigated and feedback provided.

She added that the enquiry has been sent to the agency’s complaint platform for a response.

The media officer of LASPPA also informed The Guardian that the relevant district office has been contacted and an investigation is ongoing on the issues raised.