10 months ago

BusinessDay 06 Mar 2018


18 BUSINESS DAY C002D5556 FEATURE Tuesday 06 March 2018 Investigation: In major Nigerian cities, s water, vulnerable to lead contamination Over 500,000 tons of used lead acid batteries is generated in Nigeria and informally recycled to be exported to markets in India and China, but loose The acidic air was so pungent, my lungs felt heavy and constricted, my breath came in short spurts, water seeped down my eyes and nausea rose to my throat. I was gasping for breath, wheezing literally. I had just spent 30 minutes in a shop where liquid acid is extracted from used lead acid batteries (ULABs) in a scrap market at Obosi, 10 kilometres away from Onitsha, a commercial hub in south eastern Nigeria. However, for ThankGod Ikenna, this is just a regular day at the office. He is almost 30 years old but his languid frame and reedy limbs would belie this fact. Clad in a shirt and trouser that look like it could infect with a touch, Ikenna had only a rubber glove and tawdry shoes shielding him from direct contact with the hazardous material. Though ULABs are classified as hazardous wastes, in many states in Nigeria, including Abia, Oyo, Ogun, Lagos, Anambra, Kano, Abuja and Kaduna, a thriving industry exists especially in collection of ULABs, and in Lagos, a handful of makeshift recycling operations constitute a serious danger for the country. A ticking time-bomb During the course of the month-long investigation for this story, a new report titled: “Soil Contamination from Lead Battery Manufacturing and Recycling in Seven African Countries,” was published in the Journal of Environmental Research. The researchers tested areas surrounding 16 authorized industrial facilities in Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania and Tunisia, and claimed that activities in some facilities in Lagos and Ogun states where recycling occurs posed significant health risks to the public. A total of 21 soil samples from lead battery recycling factories sites in Lagos and Ogun states were analysed. Samples were tested in EMSL Analytical, Incorporation, United States of America, which show that lead levels around lead battery recycling plants in Nigeria ranged up to 29,000parts per million (ppm) outside the facilities tested and 140,000ppm inside the facility tested. The study found that spent batteries housed up to 40 pounds of lead, which can cause high blood pressure, kidney damage and abdominal pain in adults, and serious developmental delays and behavioral problems in young children because it interferes with neurological development. “One of the facilities tested in Ota (Ogun state) is located within approximately 20 meters of a residential district with about 200 inhabitants. At another facility in Ogijo (Ogun state), “waste water run-off from the factory is used to irrigate surrounding farmlands. “The contamination levels in soil ranged up to 14 per cent lead with average concentrations of two per cent lead. About 15 of the samples (71per cent) were greater than 400 ppm or the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) limit for soil. Levels below 80 ppm are considered safe for children”, Part of the report was collected by SRADev Nigeria Leslie Adogame executive director of SRADev Nigeria said a key problem is that there are no industry specific regulations controlling the release of lead from these recycling plants or to protect workers and children in surrounding communities.” Understandably, the report has generated a lot of reactions but the problem of lead contamination in Nigeria may actually be worse than imagined. Collection Batteries are collected in conditions that are injurious to the health of those who do the collection as well as those who live in areas where they are stored. I observed that used lead-acid batteries are stored in close proximity with human habitation or illegally dumped, the lead and sulfuric acid can seep into the soil and contaminate ground water, potentially affecting the quality of our drinking water supply. Liquid acid extraction The practice of breaking up the acid to drain the acid before the batteries are transported to Lagos is with the objective of reducing the weight when transporting them. Many local smelters encourage the practice by offering better prices for “dry” batteries Makeshift smelters Informal recyclers then proceed to extract lead from the used batteries in a process that is injurious to their health as well as the environment. Many locations where local smelters used to operate in Lagos have closed down due to the intense enforcement raids by the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA). But a few plants exists and many in backwater communities around Lagos including at Ijora, Ketu, Ojota, Orile, Ajah, Apapa and Satellite Town. Many operate inside private houses which are often located at the outskirts of the town. However, their operations follow a basic format of extracting lead through a heating process. BusinesDay could not access the facilities of Metal Recycling Industries located in Ogun state, said to be one of the biggest smelters, but inquiries indicated that ULABs recycling thrives in the facility which advertises itself as a copper and metal recycling facility. Collectors as far as Onitsha confirmed that Metal Recycling Industries were major buyers of ULABs. I contacted Narendra Singh, the company’s managing director to inquire about their operations. Assuming I was calling to sell batteries, he began to inquire about quantity of batteries I had and how much I was willing to offer. When I identified myself as a journalist, he quickly said the company was not into lead acid battery recycling. Another smelter, Metal Recycling World in Illupeju industrial estate, Lagos, process lead dust to process inglot for exporters. I observed that the workers were not wearing any form of personal protective equipment and a few were working with their bare hands. Lead dust is blown into the atmosphere and the facility is near a commercial hub. Primary recyclers often have to deal with batteries that have broken their packaging during transportation and are exposed to acid leaks when unloading and unpacking the ULABs. They also have to deal with significant waste in the form of plastic wrap and strapping, as well as dry cell batteries that are “inadvertently” mixed up with the ULABs. Some of other smelters visited including Zeta Metals Nigeria Limited, Henskiski Nigeria Limited, Automative Consulting Limited among others are no longer recycling but merely exporting processed lead. Danger to human health Lead-acid batteries contain sulphuric acid and large amounts of lead. The acid is extremely corrosive, and a good carrier for soluble lead and lead particulate. Lead is a highly toxic metal that produces a range of adverse health effects particularly in young children, including cardiovascular, neurological and gastrointestinal diseases like anaemia, and mental retardation. Experts say long term exposure can result in cancer, brain and kidney damage in human. Further dangers include hearing impairment Makeshift recycling operation, batteries are broken... Soil in areas around recycling plants is contaminated... Ijora, Lagos. Batteries are stacked close to residential buildings ... Aba, Abia state Batteries are stacked close to residential buildings ... Onitsha, Anambra state . (Source REDDIN) Informal recyclers collect molten to form lead through a local kiln and it can affect children’s cognitive development. I cannot be sure if that is why I had practically scream at battery dealers in Onitsha before they can hear me – but then again it could easily have been the result of the organised chaos in the rowdy market. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) report in 2009, Lead poisoning accounts for at least 0.6% of the global burden of disease. The Blacksmith Institute considers lead pollution one of the world’s worst pollution problems. In 2012 an outbreak of lead poisoning occurred in Zamfara, Nigeria where over 400 children died

Tuesday 06 March 2018 C002D5556 BUSINESS DAY 23 FEATURE oil, underground regulation in many states, signals grave danger, writes ISAAC ANYAOGU. Apo Market, Abuja because of exposure to lead caused by gold mining, and thousands more now have their brain damaged and disabled. While the government of Nigeria is yet to activate remedy to the lead exposure via mining, it still seats on more than 110,000 used lead acid batteries; most of which are poorly managed, recycled and exported informally; without adequate regulation A study by Oladele Osinbajo, a professor of Analytical/Environmental Chemistry at the University of Ibadan, conducted on a discarded battery recycling plant in Ibadan found that lead levels ranged from 120-124 000 and 25.4-4300 mg Pb/kg in the slag waste and the surrounding soils respectively, indicating levels higher than the clean-up level (400 mg/Kg) of Pb in soil. This is after the company had left the site. Other heavy metals Cadmium, Chromium, Nicket and Zinc were also present in the waste and soils. The abandoned lead-acid battery waste contaminated sites and the surrounding soils were contaminated with Pb, Cd, Cr, Ni and Zn, where Pb is the predominant pollutant. The samples tested for TCLP had leachable lead exceeding 5.0 mg/L thereby indicating the site as hazardous. “This means that the soil and the plants in the immediate environment of the waste are highly polluted with lead. Risk assessment indicated that plants, animals, man, groundwater quality and the general environment are at high risks of lead toxicity,” said Osinbajo. Nigeria is yet to develop a distinct regulatory code for ULABs, despite the toxic nature of waste generated, ranked second most toxic after nuclear material. There are regulations dealing with toxic wastes in general developed by National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), a Federal Government agency that regulates hazardous waste but without classifying ULABs as such and codifying regulations to govern informal recycling, it undermines the health of its citizens. “Used lead acid batteries are considered the second most toxic waste after nuclear waste. If we are going to mismanage other waste streams like plastic bottles and other packaging wastes, lead acids should be the last waste we will ever try to mismanage because of the harmful effects,” Terseer Ugbor, managing director/CEO of REDIN Recycling Industries said. According to the NESREA, a properly implemented Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a driving force in waste avoidance and effective pollution prevention and reduction in many industrial sectors towards the promotion of green economy. It offers a framework for a partnership approach between Government, business, and the community to work towards zero waste. The EPR shifts the responsibility for waste management from government to private industry, obliging producers, importers and/or sellers to internalise waste management costs in their product prices and ensuring the safe handling of their products. It is the gold standard for managing ULABs in Germany, China, United States, Netherlands and South Africa among others. Understandably, recyclers and collectors bear the primary responsibility in the EPR. Recyclers are required to mandatorily subscribe to the concept, ensure safe management of waste, design and implement appropriate EPR programme and administer recovery and recycling programmes, register with the PRO and renew registration annually and keep proper inventory of products. Collectors on the other hand, are required to register with a collection Centre, work closely with operators of collection centres and consumers, use approved transportation system/ carts, ensure the use of appropriate PPE, receive compensation from major collectors or operators of collection centres, provide compensation or payment for consumers; and promote any other actions towards the successful implementation of the EPR Programme. The challenges with ULABs management in Nigeria are diverse and thorny. Battery importers do not bear a responsibility for what happens to their product. Recyclers who easily get used batteries run a dangerous operation, efficient recyclers like Union Autoparts Nig Ltd cannot get batteries because they price it lower than industry standard, there is poor regulation from NESREA to the different states and operators can’t stand each other long enough to self-regulate as everyone prefers to work in silos. The ministry of environment has developed a National Environmental Regulations with provision for the EPR. NESREA has developed operational guidelines that explore the use of economic instrument to ramp up compliance but they are yet to leave the papers on which they are written. A battery producer would monitor his products from cradle to cradle and administer recovery and recycling programmes through the PRO. On the other hand, the government would monitor compliance, ban designated hazardous materials from use in products and/ or disposal, establish relevant environmental standards, register and accredit recyclers as Authorised Treatment Facilities (ATF), and issue permits. In Nigeria though, this is yet to take off. “The Agency (NESREA) is awaiting the sector players to organise themselves and bring up a plan for EPR implementation and submit to NESREA for review and approval,” says Miranda Amachree, director, Inspection and Enforcement Department of NESREA in a presentation at a workshop on the subject last year. Lawrence Anukam, director general of the NESREA in an interview on February 21, in his office in Abuja, said the sector players have now nominated a PRO and his parastatal was ramping up enforcement, calling on states to partner with the organisation. But the next day, when the NESREA met with the group, it was discovered that operators are yet to fully agree on the modalities for setting up the PRO. Basel Convention The Nigerian government signed the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Some use cutlasses to hack open batteries... Obosi, Anambra State movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal in 1992. It is an international treaty designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste, except radioactive waste, between nations, and specifically to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries. This treaty was created following the dumping of 8,000 barrels of hazardous waste to the small town of Koko, in Delta state, Nigeria in exchange for $100 monthly rent paid to a farmer for use of his farmland by an Italian firm. This created global angst and soon prompted deep scrutiny in the management of hazardous waste. After the incident, Nigeria hastily cobbled together a harmful waste Special Criminal Provision, Decree 42 of 1988, which, made it a criminal act punishable by life imprisonment, to carry, deposit, transport, import, sell, buy or negotiate in trade of harmful waste in Nigeria territory. Others that followed include: Harmful Waste Act (Decree 42 of 1988) retained as Cap HI LFN 2004; Environmental Impact Assessment Act retained as Cap EI2 LFN 2004. But these laws are scarcely enforced. “In the absence of a ULABs policy, the government should domesticate the Basel convention,” Ugbor said. According to the Basel convention, appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) should be worn when handling ULABs, they must be stacked in an upright orientation with the vent and inspection caps firmly in place so that acid is not spilled. Inaction by state governments Lagos state government perhaps has the most advanced regulation on the management of hazardous waste in Nigeria. The Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) has a hazardous materials management department that certifies operators of hazardous wastes and an enforcement unit monitors compliance. I learnt from a visit to the organisation that it is poorly funded, lacking resources to buy latest equipment to carry out effective monitoring. In Nigeria, budget for environment is really not a priority. I visited two former unauthorized recycling centers in Ketu and Ojota and found that two operators who formerly carry out informal recycling have shifted to merely collection of the batteries due to a clampdown by the state government. “They said the battery acid can get into borehole water and gave me a whole lot of things to do to protect the area, I considered Informal operator carries out makeshift processing... Ijora, Lagos what I will spend is even more than what I was making from the business, so I stopped, I just collect batteries now and sell,” says James John, whom I met at his makeshift recycling center in Ojota. In other states visited the states’ ministries of environment are yet to demonstrate serious commitment to checking the menace. None had any form of documented policy on management of hazardous waste. The value chain Two kinds of batteries exist: lead acid and dry batteries. Lead Acid Batteries used to power automobiles, industrial equipment, and the renewables industry. Dry Cell Batteries are commonly used for radios, toys, cellular phones, watches, laptop computers, portable power tools, and other consumer goods. According to research by Recycling and Economic Initiative Development of Nigeria (REDIN), a non-governmental organisation, advocating environmentally sustainable recycling, supported by the Heinrich Boll Stiftung (HBS) Nigeria, in 2016, found that every year, an estimated 110,300 tons of used lead acid batteries are generated from the transport sector. Further studies including survey of operators and addition of figures from the bourgeoning solar energy sector, puts the total estimated value of ULABs generated in Nigeria at 500,000 tons annually. The retail cost of used lead acid batteries ranges between N4,000 and N10,000 per unit. Each ton is sold at N340,000 translating to a market value of N170bn. The cost of transporting each ton is put at N11,000 and at the rate of 500,000 tones, the estimated cost is put at N5.5billion. This puts the value of the sector to over N175billion. The market is moving towards collection of used battery rather than recycling and the growth of the solar energy industry means that operators will generate more ULABs, which would constitute more environmental challenges. ULABs from the bourgeoning solar industry are projected to eclipse the automobile sector. For every 6 kW solar PV installations about 8 units of batteries (400 Amp, 48 V) are needed. For urban apartments about 24 batteries are needed, for rural households about 1-4, depending on the energy consumption needs, according to solar operators. Nigeria’s solar PV target of 30,000 MW according to the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), would require a dizzying amount of lead-acid batteries. Currently, for every 6 kilowatts of installed solar PV about 8 units of batteries (400 Amp, 48 V) are needed. A quick calculation indicates that to generate the 30,000 megawatts (MW) about 40 million batteries will need to be installed initially. The typical lifetime of a battery is only about three years, compared to 20-25 years average lifespan of the PV panels. For 30,000 MW solar PV capacity this would mean over the lifetime about 280 million batteries will have to be installed, replaced, recovered and then recycled. Over 80 percent of the batteries used in solar energy generation are imported from China. The alternative, lithium batteries is yet to gain a foothold in the Nigerian off-grid market because it cost twice as much to purchase. Margins are low and many projects are financed by debt which can’t be recouped in 5 years, hence operators prefer lead acid battery to meet their bottom-line. Little economic benefit for government The government however, derives little value from this market. Exporters pay the Ministry of Environment a paltry N500 per ton. The Nigerian Customs Service has no formal tariffs for ULABs. Sources say exporters make under the table payment of about N2,000 on a container bound for exports. Meanwhile a ton of lead in the international market is about $2,500.

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