Greenpeace Water Patrol delivers contaminated groundwater to DENR

Group demands immediate action against polluting industries

Feature story - October 19, 2007
Water Patrol activists from the environmental group Greenpeace delivered bottles of contaminated groundwater at the doorsteps of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to remind the agency of its urgent mandate to protect the country’s dwindling freshwater resources from indiscriminate toxics pollution.

The water patrol activists from the Greenpeace environmental group submit bottles of water tested positive of hazardous toxins in the Department of Natural Resources. The environmental activists known for their creative and non-violent protests put pressure on the department today after tesing waters from Cavite Economic Processing Zone and discovered it contained toxic chemicals and unfit for human consumption.

The contaminated water, which was delivered in four 1-liter sampling bottles, was taken from sites within the Cavite Economic Processing Zone or CEPZA, where Greenpeace found severe cases of chemical contamination earlier in the year. To underscore the problem, the activists put "Refreshingly Toxic Water" labels in each bottle, and indicated that the same were "unfit for human consumption and guaranteed to make you sick."

In the report, 'Cutting Edge Contamination: A study of environmental pollution during the manufacture of electronic products' released in February this year, three samples taken from this site contained chlorinated Volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) above World Health Organization (WHO) limits for drinking water. One sample contained tetrachloroethene (TCE) at levels nine times above the WHO guidance values for exposure limits, and 70 times the US Environmental Protection Agency maximum contaminant level for drinking water. Elevated levels of metals, particularly copper, nickel and zinc, were also found in groundwater samples in some sites.

"It is very alarming to note that chemical contaminants from industrial activities are now finding their way into our groundwater sources as evidenced by these water samples from Cavite.  Once these contaminants reach our groundwater supply, it is almost impossible to remove them or clean-up the problem. For this reason, we are calling on the DENR to put more resources on pollution prevention and make sure that indiscriminate toxic discharges from industry are stopped," said Beau Baconguis of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. 

"It is very alarming to note that chemical contaminants from industrial activities are now finding their way into our groundwater sources as evidenced by these water samples from Cavite.  Once these contaminants reach our groundwater supply, it is almost impossible to remove them or clean-up the problem. For this reason, we are calling on the DENR to put more resources on pollution prevention and make sure that indiscriminate toxic discharges from industry are stopped."

Beau Baconguis

Greenpeace Toxics Campaigner

According to the World Bank's Philippine Environment Monitor 2006, more than 15 percent of the reported diseases and nearly 6,000 premature deaths annually are related to exposure to water pollution and poor sanitation and hygiene. Treatment and lost incomes from these diseases is estimated at PHP 6.7 billion pesos per year.  

"The DENR must take decisive and concrete steps to ensure that our freshwater sources remain clean and do not end up becoming a soup of  chemical poisons ", added Baconguis. "Polluters must be made accountable for the lasting damage caused by their activities to our water resources. More importantly, our industries must be encouraged to move away from the use of toxic materials in production. This is the only real solution to the problem of pollution," she added.  

Last week, Greenpeace launched Project Clean Water to highlight the threats to Philippine freshwater resources focusing on water pollution from industrial production and chemically dependent agriculture.  The group is calling for a shift to clean production and sustainable agriculture to prevent pollution which together with climate change is expected to aggravate the problem of water scarcity.  

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