Your pipe, our poison? We have the right to know!

Greenpeace Water Patrol spotlights chemical discharge pipes along Marikina river

Feature story - November 3, 2010
Greenpeace Water Patrol activists today highlighted factory discharge pipes along the Marikina River and posted warning signs to call attention to the fact that no policy exists to ensure that chemical effluents from factories are not toxic. The group is demanding the Philippine government to implement a mandatory chemical disclosure system for industries and ensure that there is no more harmful wastewater from factories through a “zero discharge” policy [1].

Greenpeace Water Patrol activists aboard an inflatable boat and wearing protective hazmat (hazardous materials handling) suits, install banners that read “Ang nasa tubo mo, lason sa tubig ko? (Your pipe, my poison?) We have the right to know!” at the discharge pipes of factories along the Marikina River. © Veejay Villafranca/Greenpeace

The Water Patrol activists on board rubber boats and wearing protective hazmat (hazardous materials handling) suits, arrived at the Marikina River to inspect discharge pipes that may be dumping toxic chemicals into the river.  Four discharge pipes of industrial sources from two facilities [2] were visited by the team, which also deployed bamboo rafts with signs that say “Ang nasa tubo mo, lason sa tubig ko? (Your pipe, my poison?) We have the right to know!”

“We have the right to know what chemicals are being poured into the water we use for drinking, fishing or bathing.  There are hundreds of discharge pipes along the Marikina River and hundreds of toxic chemicals likely pass through these pipes daily.  But no one knows exactly what these are.  Greenpeace is reminding government agencies and industries of their responsibility to let the public know about substances that are being discharged into our water bodies,” said Beau Baconguis, Toxics Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

“Oftentimes, our water bodies are being used as final disposal systems for some of the most toxic chemicals, without the knowledge of the majority of Filipinos. Toxic cocktails are directly released into the Marikina River by factories and other industrial facilities, eventually ending up in Laguna Lake, which is now a domestic water and food source for Metro Manila and Southern Tagalog provinces.”


Greenpeace is recommending pollution disclosure systems, such as the Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR), which allow various sectors to participate in environmental monitoring with a common goal of pollution reduction.  It allows manufacturers to be more innovative in their product designs so that the use of toxic chemicals are eliminated and replaced with benign substances in each stage of their productions process [3].

According to the group, pollution disclosure has existed and is being implemented in other countries such as the United States, members of the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, and Chile. The US PRTR has been implemented since the 1980s and has seen dramatic reductions in their pollution load into the environment.

“The Aquino government campaigned and won on a platform of transparency, accountability, good governance and public participation. With the continuing decline of water quality and availability, especially in the face of climate change, a pollution disclosure system, consistent with this government’s platform, will allow the different sectors to participate and make effective water protection a reality.  We cannot forever close our eyes to facilities dumping toxic chemicals into our bodies of water. Freshwater is becoming scarcer and scarcer, yet facilities continue to contaminate them with toxic chemicals from their operations. If the public must participate in efforts to reduce pollution discharges into our water, they must be able to freely access pollution data. We need information on pollution and we need them now,” Baconguis added.

Preventive measures of water pollution are urgently needed in the Philippines.  The government should:
  • set up a proper pollutant disclosure system through which the public could easily access a wide range of pollution data;
  • immediately establish a list of hazardous chemicals for priority elimination action; and
  • create an action plan with clear timelines to reduce, restrict and ultimately eliminate the discharges of toxic chemicals.

 

Notes to Editors:
[1] “Zero discharge” means the cessation of discharges, emissions and losses of all hazardous substances by one generation, supported by interim targets appropriate to ensure progressive and substantial reductions over time. This can be achieved by application of an appropriate combination of waste reduction/prevention techniques including product reformulation, clean production technologies, process modifications, hazardous chemical input substitution and/or on-site, closed-loop recycling. For hazardous substances which are not readily biodegradable and which, therefore, are not amenable to complete destruction through the application of non-polluting waste treatment technologies, their substitution with less hazardous, or preferably non-hazardous, alternatives should be a priority.  Interim targets, are to be set on the basis of validated substance mass balances and waste reduction/prevention plans appropriate for each industrial sector.

[2] Three of the discharge pipes visited that empty into the Marikina River are from Chemrez Technologies, Inc., a company into the manufacturing, processing, and refining of all kinds of chemical products, compounds, derivatives or chemical substances and all kinds of goods, etc. These products include oleochemicals, powder coatings, resins and specialty chemicals, and biodiesel.  The fourth discharge pipe is from Coats Manila Bay, Inc., an international company and leading manufacturer of cotton and polyester sewing threads. Coats is the leader in textile crafts. Its brands include: Anchor, Cannon, Trident, Moon, Coats Astra, and Red Heart.  Coats supplies the sewing thread requirements of the garment industry, including brands such as Levi's, Lee, Jag, Triumph, Bench and Guess, among others. Both companies discharge directly into the Marikina River. Coats is located in Marikina City and Chemrez in Quezon City.

[3] Pollutant disclosure systems such as “Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers  (PRTRs)” is a policy that requires that factories provide information on the types of toxic chemicals being used in their manufacturing process and the quantities of total emissions and effluents released in their vicinity.  Making this information publicly available not only provides monitoring data but also creates pressure for factories to reduce their use and emissions of toxic chemicals and promotes public participation in environmental management. Read more at http://www.greenpeace.org/seasia/th/water-patrol/reports/pollutant-release-and-transfer-register

For example: there are commitments to eliminate discharges of priority toxic chemicals within the European Union and wider North-East Atlantic and Baltic Sea regions. PRTRs are widely used in many regions of the world - the EU, Asia US and Latin America - for reducing and monitoring chemical releases – see http://www.prtr.net/en/links/.

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