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Ethanol plant claims accidental discharge

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By Abraham Adekunle

The firm had been sealed by NESREA for violating environmental safety laws.

A Benue-based ethanol-producing company, which was sealed shut on April 17, 2023 by a combined team of NESREA officials and officers of the Nigeria Police Force, Benue State Command, has now responded that the claims in some sections of the media that it had continuously discharged waste materials into the Benue River is false. The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) claimed that the company was found guilty of poor environmental breaches for discharging untreated waste (effluent) into water bodies.

Pure Bio-Tech Company Limited, which owns the facility, produces ethanol using cassava as its raw material. NESREA also claimed that the facility had no effluent treatment plant, which would ensure that the wastes are well-treated before being discharged into the environment. The PRO of the agency had announced that this non-availability is a clear violation of the provisions of the National Environmental (Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, Soap and Detergent Manufacturing Industries) Regulations 2009 S.I No.36 and National Environmental (Sanitation and Waste Control) Regulations 2009 S.I No.28.

Firm admits to an accidental discharge of wastes.

In light of this, the firm released a press statement, which was signed by its Communications and Public Relations Manager, Mr. Stephen Numbeve. In it, the firm stated that the recent discharge of effluents into the Benue River, which made NESREA seal the facility for two weeks, was accidental. The facility had been shut down from April 17-29, 2023. While admitting this, the press statement explained that the sludge from a by-product (bio-gas) was moved into a “Saver Pit” which was filled-up when the engineers had shut down operations for the day.

The statement added that the sludge spilled through the safety channels down the drains into the river before pre-treatment through the Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP). “It is important to make it clear that the discharge was not a continuous one as being widely reported; it occurred only once in that moment,” Numbeve noted. He revealed that the company made a mistake, was sanctioned by the government agency, and their facility had just been unsealed after they complied with the conditions stipulated by the environmental agency.

EMS optimization employed to prevent future re-occurrence.

Most importantly, the company said that it has learned from the occurrence in the last couple of weeks. Because of this, it has resolved to optimize its Environmental Management System (EMS) to avert any future re-occurrence of the issue. Their Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process has also been completed and duly approved, while they await EIS certification by the Federal Ministry of Environment. Numbeve also disclosed that the firm has installed a state-of-the-art ETP and an accompanying standard laboratory equipped to ensure product and effluent are air quality as well as meeting SON, NESREA and international standards.

It was added in the statement that the company is adopting a circular economy approach to waste management. Solid and liquid wastes are converted into bio-gas and fertilizer. Even the treated wastewater is being recycled to ensure that there is nothing to be discharged into the environment anymore. “We encourage the general public to take a tour of the company and access things,” the communication manager said. “Go and verify!” This transparent move will help gain not only the trust of the government but also the affinity of the people in nearby communities who are affected by the environmental degradation caused by the discharged wastes.

The firm recounts its corporate social responsibility initiatives.

Pure Bio-Tech said it has been providing access to clean water in the community by installing two additional boreholes. It has also secured a parcel of land to establish a school with modern learning facilities. The company re-affirms that it is a law-abiding entity and pledges to continue to improve its systems of operation as well as programs designed to protect the environment and human health. In the nearest future, the company sees itself as a leading environmental friendly company in Benue State and in the North Central region.

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