07 August 2012

Government Urged to Check Conditions of Dumpsites after Continuous Rains

A waste and pollution watchdog has asked concerned national and local government agencies to conduct immediate inspection and assessment of waste disposal facilities following persistent rains in many parts of the archipelago, particularly in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

The EcoWaste Coalition specifically urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the National Solid Waste Management Commission, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and local government units hosting garbage transfer stations, dumpsites or landfills to fully assess the physical conditions of the facilities amid the inclement weather.

“The site inspection is crucial as garbage disposal facilities are prone to flooding, soil erosion, leachate spillage, ‘garbageslide’ and other health and environmental hazards as we have seen in the past,” said Edwin Alejo, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“It is possible that the monsoon rains may have softened the soil and caused undetected damage to the facilities, particularly the retention walls of dumpsites and landfills,” he said.

Alejo recalled that the Payatas dumpsite tragedy in Quezon City on July 10, 2000 occurred after days of nonstop rains, which triggered a 50 foot wall of trash to collapse and bury hundreds of people alive.

More recently, heavy rains caused the retaining wall of the Irisan dumpsite in Baguio City to give way on August 27, 2011, killing five persons.

“As the health and safety of the people and the environment is at stake here, we propose that such inspection be conducted in an open and transparent manner involving residents, barangay officials and civil society representatives. The public have the right to know,” he emphasized.

The Pier 18 Garbage Station in Tondo, Manila and the dumpsites and/or landfills in Payatas, Quezon City, in Antipolo City, Rodriguez and San Mateo, Rizal, in Tanza, Navotas City, in Norzagaray and San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan, and even the one being constructed in Salambao, Obando, Bulacan are located in environmentally-critical areas, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

While site inspection is indeed necessary, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out that garbage disposal facilities, including the so-called engineered landfills, can never be entirely safe even with the most expensive liners and pollution mitigation measures.

The group echoed a warning by experts that “today’s state-of-the-art landfills are expected to be threats to groundwater quality for hundreds to thousands of years after closure.”

Instead of being fixated with garbage disposal through landfills or incinerators, the EcoWaste Coalition proposes investments on effective programs that will prevent and reduce waste volume and toxicity, including clean production, product redesign, toxics use reduction, reduced packaging, eco-friendly consumption, segregation at source, reuse, recycling and composting.

This will require the honest-to-goodness enforcement of Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, including the closure, cleanup and rehabilitation of dumpsites and their replacements with community-driven materials recovery facilities or ecology centers.

-end-

Reference re number of years that state-of-the-art landfills would remain a threat to groundwater quality:
“Three R’s Managed Garbage Protects Groundwater Quality” by G. Fred Lee, P.E. and Anne Jones Lee, Ph.D. (www.gfredlee.com/plandfil2/htm) and “Landfills are Dangerous” by Peter Montague (www.rachel.org)

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