Video: Wadi al-Qamar residents capture emissions from Titan’s Alexandria Portland Cement, and the Egyptian initiative comments on the company's response
Emissions from the chimney of Alexandria Portland Cement’s plant
Residents of Wadi al-Qamar have recently posted a video, dated 18 May 2017, on Facebook, which depicts very large emissions coming out of a chimney of the Alexandria Portland Cement’s plant (APCC), which is adjacent to their homes. APCC is a subsidiary of TITAN Cement Group, a multinational cement and building materials producing company, based in Greece.
Residents of the area have been complaining for years about the environmental pollution caused by the plant and the harmful effects it has had on their health and the health of their children. Residents have filed numerous complaints to the Ministry of Environment and other concerned parties to no avail. They have also initiated a number of legal actions against the factory for legal and environmental violations, and have submitted a complaint to relevant procedures at the World Bank, which finances the plant.
It is worth mentioning that APCC, a subsidiary of TITAN Cement Group, has constantly claimed that it has had a stellar environmental record; that its emissions are within the legally permitted range; that its chimney is tied to the National Network for Monitoring Industrial Emissions; and that no environmental violations were recorded against it.
“This is one of tens and hundreds of videos we took, and it won’t be the last. We’re being asked to believe the records and doubt our own eyes?” - One of the area’s residents.
Rejoinder to TITAN Cement’s response to a video of the incident on 18 May 2017
TITAN Cement responded to a video showing heavy emissions rising out of the Alexandria Portland Cement Company (APCC) plant, owned by a subsidiary of TITAN Cement Company S.A. The response was published by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre and included a confirmation that “due to a temporary incident at [APCC], on May 18, 2017, release of dust was caused”. The response provided assurances that the “incident was detected and brought under control very quickly”. The letter was in response to a video posted on Facebook by residents of Wadi al-Qamar, a community of around 50’000 individuals living adjacent to the plant. Residents filed several domestic complaints and legal actions against the plant’s poor environmental performance, as well as a complaint before the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman, the independent recourse mechanism of the International Finance Corporation, an investor in the plant.
EIPR welcomes TITAN Cement’s response and its acknowledgment of the incident and takes note of the confirmation of its “enduring commitment to environmental stewardship and to continuous improvement,” especially “[d]uring the past two years”. Nevertheless, EIPR finds significant inconsistencies between the multiple documented incidents of heavy emissions (see Annex below) documented by the residents, on one hand, and the company’s assertion that the 18 May incident is a “temporary incident”. EIPR alone found 14 videos and images that document numerous incidents between June 2015 and May 2017 showing a huge amount of emissions rising out of APCC’s plant. The number and scale of “incidents” recorded and the risk they impose conflict with the company’s claim that the incident on 18 May was temporary or isolated.
Moreover, it is perplexing and particularly concerning that the numerous documented incidents are not reflected in the company’s emissions’ monitoring records, which it submitted in one of the relevant legal actions. The incidents are also absent from records of the National Network for Monitoring Industrial Emissions, part of the Ministry of Environment, as presented by the company. Such discrepancy gives rise to serious questions and concerns.
TITAN Cement failed to clarify in its response in what way the “incident was detected and brought under control very quickly”. The release of massive amounts of dust in the air, even if for a brief period, may cause serious health impacts, including acute asthma, eye inflammation, and the spoiling of food and other goods. In accordance with good environmental practices, "incident control" procedures must be followed to remedy the consequences, an apology must be provided to the affected population, and guarantees of non-recurrence must be put in place.
While EIPR appreciates TITAN Cement’s engagement, it expects it to address the concerns raised above, specifically:
- How does the company respond to the fact that between June 2015 – May 2017 at least 14 incidents were documented showing an excessive amount of emissions rising from the APCC plant?
- How does the company explain that such incidents do not show in its own emissions monitoring records, and that no environmental infraction has been found by the Ministry of Environment?
- What actions did the company take to address the impact of the documented incidents on the surrounding community, including reaching out to the community and ensuring non-repetition?