Greenpeace Water Patrol blocks Marikina River toxic outflow pipe

Feature story - January 12, 2012
Greenpeace’s Water Patrol sealed off a discharge pipe emanating from the Unilever-RFM compound in Pasig City that has been identified in a report, released today, to be discharging various toxic and persistent organic chemicals. Murky discharge from the pipe directly flows into the Marikina River and onwards to Laguna Lake.

 

“At the moment, industries wantonly release chemicals into our water and air without regard for effects on people, on communities and their livelihoods, and on the environment.  These companies should be made accountable for the pollutants that they discharge,” said Beau Baconguis, Toxics Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

 

Four Greenpeace Water Patrol volunteers in Hazmat (hazardous materials) suits installed the metal and concrete blocker to stop the flow of toxic effluents into the river.  A sign was also installed above the pipe reading “Laguna Lake Pollution starts here!”  Copies of the Greenpeace report, “Laguna Lake, The Philippines: Industrial Contamination Hotspots”[1] were then handed to representatives in the compound, asking them to permanently stop the release of pollutants from their facilities into the environment and instead shift their processes toward clean production and zero discharge.

The discharge pipe is one of several from industrial facilities that release wastewater into tributaries of the Laguna Lake that were tested in June 2011.

The report lists the results of sampling at different sites. Eight wastewater, six sediment and two soil samples were taken from discharge pipes of industrial facilities discharging wastewater into tributaries of Laguna Lake.  The selection of the facilities was based on the following criteria:

  • Facility operations were thought to involve the use of toxic chemicals;
  • The facility discharged wastewater directly into Laguna Lake or one of its tributaries;
  • In some cases, the facility had been previously identified by government agencies as a polluting industry and listed in the black or red lists by the Laguna Lake Development Authority or the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Of the six facilities sampled, four were identified as point source discharges of various toxic chemicals and persistent organic chemicals. These include Mayer Textile and TNC Chemicals, and Carmelray1 Industrial Park in Calamba, Laguna, as well as certain facilities within the Unilever-RFM compound in Pasig City. [2]

“The report provides a snapshot of the toxic contamination that is happening in Laguna Lake and its tributaries for those who have a right to know – the people who rely on Laguna Lake for their water supply.  The lake is an important freshwater source for several cities and municipalities in Luzon, including parts of Metro Manila.  The public should not be at the mercy of industry, which is why Greenpeace is urging the speedy adoption of a pollution disclosure system, such as the Pollution Release and Transfer Register (PRTR), which institutionalizes the community’s right-to-know about the toxic chemicals in their area, and which has proven to drastically reduce pollution in countries where PRTR is being used,” added Baconguis.

Only this week, toxic emissions in Pasay City affected a whole school, and authorities are having a difficult time pinpointing the culprits or the chemicals involved.  A pollution disclosure system would require companies to publicly divulge information on their discharges.  Greenpeace strongly believes that if this system was implemented in the Philippines it would make communities better prepared, authorities would have more information to act upon, and industries would be motivated to move toward clean production processes by phasing out their use of toxic chemicals.
 
Notes:

  1. “Laguna Lake, The Philippines: Industrial Contamination Hotspots”; Iryna Labunska, Kevin Brigden and Paul Johnston; July 2011.  The report may be downloaded from: http://www.greenpeace.org.ph/lagunalakehotspots
  2. Mayer Textile has since closed down when visited by Greenpeace Water Patrol recently; Discharges from two other facilities tested, those of Philippine Industrial Sealants and Litton Mills, appeared to be somewhat less contaminated at the time of sampling.

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