28 August 2014

125 Intense Chemical Odor Releases Detected from Cavite Hazardous Facility

August 28, 2014, Silang, Cavite. In the span of six weeks, residents of Barangay Maguyam, a populated but highly industrialized barangay in Silang, Cavite, detected 129 intense chemical odor releases from different facilities, 125 of which came from a controversial hazardous waste treatment facility.

“We are constantly suffering from foul smells coming from the hazardous waste treatment facility of Cleanway Environmental Management Solution Inc. (CEMSI). We can smell chemical odors day and night and these smells are always so strong that they trigger headaches, nausea, eye irritation, stomach aches and induce vomiting especially in our children,” said Erlinda Olivo, a volunteer community environmental monitor.

Located inside the Meridian Industrial Complex, the Cleanway facility is one of the biggest hazardous waste treatment facilities in the country. The company treats various hazardous waste ranging from acid and alkaline waste to pesticides, infectious and special waste containing heavy metals.

From the 16th of May to 26th of June 2014, Olivo and other volunteer monitors recorded all the odors that they encounter in their day-to-day activities and described these and the immediate health impacts that they felt upon encountering the odors. Aside from 126 chemical odor incidents, the volunteers also recorded 21 different chemical odors coming from the facility of CEMSI such as the smell of rotten egg, paint, mixed waste, human feces and others.

Upon smelling these odors, the volunteers felt splitting headache, nausea, dryness of throat, throat itchiness, difficulty in breathing, eye irritation and stomach ache.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) against CEMSI in September 2013 for the company’s failure to address chemical odor leaks, poor handling and storage of hazardous waste, absence of wastewater treatment and dumping of untreated hazardous wastes in their landfill.

“It is evident that Cleanway continues to violate our environmental laws. Yet, DENR continues to do nothing and treats these foul odors coming from the plant as a mere nuisance rather than attribute these smells to possible chemical pollution. The people have the right to know what the industries around them are releasing to the environment. Full public pollution disclosure will avert ecological degradation and minimize, if not prevent, future chemical leaks and disasters from happening,” said Eloisa Tolentino, Coordinator of Cavite Green Coalition (CGC).

CEMSI has already received various complaints in the past years due to chemical leaks from its plant and its poor environmental compliance. In October 2009, more than 100 residents were hospitalized for various complaints such as dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty of breathing and asthma attacks due to extremely strong chemical smells coming from Cleanway.

Lack of systematic ambient air monitoring and the non-disclosure of industries’ emissions data have prevented Maguyam residents to determine the quality of the air that they breathe and identify the presence of chemicals that could have short or long term effects on their health.

To generate their own data, Olivo and other barangay residents underwent training on community environmental monitoring which was facilitated by CGC and the Philippine Pollution Monitor in partnership with EcoWaste Coalition.

The Maguyam environmental monitors continue to systematically record chemical odor incidents coming from CEMSI and other industries in Maguyam. 

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