Monrovia - The Liberia National Police says it has found no evidence of well poisoning as has been rumored around Monrovia and its environs. Speaking during a news conference in Monrovia on Monday, Police director Col. Chris Massaquoi, said the reports of well poisoning, which had been circulating in Monrovia has created panic among peaceful citizens.
“From the test results and statistics that were conducted by all the above mentioned testing centers, there was no evidence to substantiate the widespread speculation that water sources, such as rivers and wells, were ever poisoned,” he said.
“We do not know the origin of such scaring information which engulfed the city a fortnight ago that resulted to mob violence against some of our citizens, howbeit, innocently. The Police are, therefore, warning rumor mongers and negative talebearers to refrain from putting other citizens in harm’s way through their wagging and poisonous tongue, for the Police will not hesitate to arrest and charge to court all such persons when caught.”
He said over the last few days Liberians have been engulfed with terrifying news of contamination of wells and water sources in various communities in Montserrado and Margibi Counties in the wake of the prevailing Ebola disease and has led to mob violence against some Liberians.
1st Incident – Alleged Poisoning of a Well in Kpor Town, Margibi County
Director Massaquoi said on August 3, 2014, an individual identified as Edwin Dagbe, aged 27, was rescued by personnel of the Armed Forces of Liberia and subsequently turned over to the Liberia National Police, who was being beaten by community dwellers on suspicion of poisoning and contaminating wells in Kpor Town.
He said Community dwellers alleged that Mr. Dagbe had in his possession one nose mask, one pair of hand gloves and one syringe, but said due to the large crowd which had gathered at the Police depot in Kpor Town, suspect Dagbe was immediately transferred to the RIA Police Detail for safety. “Following the arrest of the suspect, the Liberia National Police collected water samples from the well for test analysis, while the well was ordered shut down pending the outcome of the test analysis,” he said.
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, because of the importance the LNP attached to this grave allegation, a sample of the water was immediately sent to the National Standards Laboratory and the LNP Forensics Unit for testing. We want to report that test result from the lab revealed that water from the well, contained lower concentrations of Aldehyde, which is a form Formaldehyde. As a result, the Police Forensic Unit considers the test as being inconclusive.
He said the result-lacked information on the percentage of concentration of formaldehyde, which would render the water either contaminated (poisoned) or not and it also shows that the water taken from this well had a pH of 6.52 at 24.4 degree centigrade, while normal water pH is reported to be between 6.5 to 8.5. “The test further reveals that aldehyde (an element of formaldehyde) is usually found in water sources closer to swamps and sandy areas,” he said.
“Also, the test result indicates that all water has its own chemical substances; these substances were however, not mentioned. Finally, the test result also mentioned a low concentration of aldehyde thereby rendering the water nonlethal and harmless for human consumption.” Director Massaquoi said in this case the Police does not have sufficient evidence to support the suspicion of the community dwellers that Mr. Dagbe attempted to poison or contaminate their well.
2nd Incident – Alleged Poisoning of the Farmington River
The police boss said in the second incident report of alleged water poisoning, citizens of Marshall in Margibi County, on August 4, 2014, where a 48-year-old man was arrested for being in possession of a mineral bottle which community dwellers said contained substances they claimed he intended to use to contaminate the Farmington River, the suspect was apprehended, he was turned over to the LNP for investigation.
During Police investigation, the accused denied the allegation and claimed that the liquid substance was an herbal concoction prepared by him for his toothache. “The liquid was tested and found to contain a high concentration of aldehydes with organic impurities which content was positive with the alcoholic and carboxylic content negative. Also, the pH level was shown to be 4.70 at 25.5 degree centigrade. He is currently detained at the RIA Police Detachment for further investigation,” he said.
3rd Incident – Alleged Poisoning of a Well on Lynch Street
In relations to the third incident of alleged well poisoning that was reported on August 5, 2014 on Lynch Street in Monrovia, involving alleged suspects Arthur Jallah and Tony Gray, Director Massaquoi said the alleged suspect was rescued by the Police from an angry crowd in the compound of the Anderson Funeral Home, after being accused by a worker of the Funeral Home only known as David of attempting to poison or contaminate a well.
“Alleged suspect Gray for his part denied being on the scene during the incident and stated that he last saw his colleague Jallah only the day before. Upon receiving the report, LNP officers visited the scene at the Anderson Funeral Home,” said Massaquoi.
“Information gathered during our investigation indicates that suspect Jallah was seen standing in close proximity to the Funeral Home, staring at the back of the building, when his accuser, David, alarmed that he was attempting to poison the well thereby attracting a large crowd which began to beat him mercilessly.”
The police said rescue and search conducted on his person by the LNP, no suspicious substance was found on the accused. “Nevertheless, the Police suspected him to be either a drug addict or probably suffering from some mental imbalance, as he made several incoherent statements during his interrogation,” he said.
“Meanwhile, the accused sustained serious injury to his head as a result of the mob violence and is currently undergoing medical treatment. Suspect Gray however, continued to maintain that he was not present on the scene nor was he involved in any alleged attempt to poison the well.”
4th Incident – Poisoning of a Well in Barnesville, Old Folks Community
Police director speaking at the news conference meant to allay the fears of the public noted that on August 6, 2014, at about Noon, another suspect Lewis Teah was turned over to the LNP by members of the Bardnersville community Watch Team who rescued him from some community members who were interrogating and attempting to mob him on suspicion of poisoning a well.
He said when the Police searched suspect Teah, he was found in possession of a plastic bag containing some tablets and a brown powdery substance. But during police investigation, the suspect claimed that the tablets were antibiotics and the powder was used to medicate fungus on his toes.
“The powdery substance and tablets have been turned over to the LNP Forensic Unit for laboratory testing,” he said, but the police found no trace of poison in the substance. Rumors have been rife lately about well poisoning and people have been covering wells to make sure that suspicious individuals do not poison them.