Relief as Chinese company emitting deadly smoke relocates from Orimerunmu

Having being denied the right to fresh, crisp air for three years, residents of Orimerunmu community in Ibafo, Ifo Obafemi-Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State, no longer fear for their lives, as Yoyo Resources Recycling Limited Company owned by a Chinese, which polluted the environment with toxic carbon dust, has finally relocated.

The development followed PUNCH Healthwise report that drew attention to the plight of the community, which had been under the strangulating grip of the company’s activities.

In the story published on Sunday, April 18, 2021, with the headline, “We can’t breathe! Ogun community chokes under Chinese recycling plant’s fume”, it was reported that the production process of the firm, which involved the use of charcoal and firewood to power a furnace filled with disused tyres to produce pyrolysis oil, was exposing residents to debilitating health conditions.

The report also revealed that the groundwater had been contaminated, while plants consistently withered due to the toxic pollutants released into the atmosphere.

Also, businesses in the community struggled to remain afloat due to the persisting environmental issue. The pyrolysis oil produced by the plant is widely used as industrial fuel to substitute furnace oil or industrial diesel.

In the story, it was noted that in places where the authorities enforce strict environmental compliance, pyrolysis oil extracted with little or no damage to the environment.

However, in Orimerunmu, as the furnace got powered during the production process of the oil that took place during the day and at night, bright flames illuminated the skyline and bellowed dark smoke into the atmosphere.

It was noted that the black smoke generated, which was as light as air and very volatile, got easily blown around by the wind, and found its way through tightly shut doors and windows of residents, causing respiratory distress and illnesses.

The sooth also coated the entire community in black dust, while the palms and underfoot of residents wore a permanent trademark of black.

Our correspondent reported that the environmental degradation caused by the recycling company gave residents of Orimerunmu community great concern, having lived with it since 2019 when the Chinese firm started its operation.

It was further noted that apart from air pollution, sooth had contaminated groundwater, causing residents to travel far distances in search of good, potable water.

As documented in the publication, a visit to the community by our correspondent authenticated the community’s claim as, “She was greeted with choking air that irritates the lungs and nostrils. By the time she returned to the office after hours of investigation, a white towel used to clean only her face was coated in black dust. She also experienced skin irritation for days after the visit.”

The negative impact of Yoyo Resources Recycling Limited Company’s activities on residents’ health was revealed in a medical test sponsored by PUNCH HealthWise.

To carry out the test, residents were randomly picked for x-rays, and the results showed that, “in reality, there is cause for concern, as some of them already have traces of pulmonary infiltrate — a substance denser than air, such as pus, blood, or protein, which lingers within the parenchyma of the lungs.”

Pulmonary infiltrates, which was highlighted in the result, physicians explained are associated with pneumonia and tuberculosis, and can be observed on a chest radiograph.

Though the Managing Director of the recycling firm, Mr. Leo Li, admitted to PUNCH HealthWise  during a visit on March 31, that the black smoke had impacted negatively on the host community, he said no one had reported with proof of developing medical issues on account of his company’s activities.

He also claimed to have compensated those directly affected by helping to clean their sooth-stained homes every weekend, and provided them with some undisclosed items.

 The Special Adviser to the Ogun State Government on Environment, Mr. Ola Oresanya, revealed that an extensive investigation showed that the company contravened the state environmental laws.

He said the owner of the company had admitted to causing environmental degradation and that after a series of meetings were held to resolve the lingering environmental crises, a resolution was reached that Yoyo Resources Recycling Limited Company would wind down its operations and leave within four months – July.

“The critical part of the resolution was that the company should relocate its operation within four months, and not leave completely,” he clarified.

“We don’t want any company to fold down or leave our state, because they are adding value and creating jobs, especially for the locals.

“However, we are not going to allow that type of production. We won’t compromise the health and wellbeing of our people. It was agreed that they would fold up their production process and put in new mitigation measures and wind down production. By July, they are not expected to operate again. They are to move to another area, do a clean process and not disturb the community.”

We are happy – CDA chairman

Chairman of the Community Development Area, Orimerunmu Community, Mr Adetayo Johnson, said he was elated about the development. He revealed that immediately after the story was published, the Ogun State Ministry of the Environment sealed the premises, adding that they were not allowed to carry out any operation again.

“We are happy now. The PUNCH newspaper saved us from untimely death. We lived in this community and endured the pollution for years. We didn’t know what to do having explored all available options. We also thank the Ogun State Government for its prompt response. Normalcy has returned to Orimerunmu. We can now breathe,” he said.

The proprietor of Funbis Schools International, Mrs. Toluwalope Adelekan, who had earlier expressed great concern for the wellbeing of her pupils, also said she was happy about the development.

The educationist had revealed in the report that she suffered from recurrent dry cough that made her periodically have urinary incontinence,

She had said, “We have children here and they are exposed to this dangerous smoke. In the crèche, I have a baby that is less than a year old. Each time the mother comes to pick her, she is covered in soot. The mother told me that when they bathe her at night, the water usually turns black.

“I wish there was a way we could barricade the smoke, but it’s in the air. If these things can settle on surfaces and can be seen and felt, then it can do extensive damage to the lungs. I also fear for the lives of the employees, because they are not properly kitted. Some don’t wear even nose masks.”

The woman, who suffered from recurrent dry cough that made her to periodically have urinary incontinence, also expressed delight with the publication.

“We can now heave a sigh of relief. My students are doing well and I feel better at the moment,” she added.

Also, LI told our correspondent that he stopped production after the story was published. The Chinese man said he wanted to keep to his words by making the lives of residents a priority.

“The place was sealed by the state government and we stopped production a long time ago. We have relocated but are still moving out our equipment. I want to be a good and law-abiding citizen,” he added.

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