By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — Representatives of residents of Taloy Sur village of Tuba town in Benguet province volunteered to help the Baguio Medical Center (BMC) and its contractor clean up Bayacsan creek of the medical waste during the technical conference at the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) on August 1.
Vicky Ducat, a resident of Taloy Sur said that their primary concern is the immediate clean up of the creek because many residents use the water from the creek to water their plants and animals. She added that some even use water from the creek for domestic purposes.
“From the very first day we saw the medical waste along the creek we already wanted to conduct a clean up but we do no have the proper equipment and knowledge to handle hazardous wastes,” Ducat said.
Ducat added that they immediately sounded the alarm because the pollution of the creek will adversely affect many residents. She said that the creek has been a watering hole for their cows and other animals.
In the same conference, EMB ordered BMC and its contractor Onofre Calam-ang to retrieve and properly dispose all medical waste that polluted the Bayacsan creek in Benguet until the Tapuakan River in Pugo, La Union.
Director Reynaldo Digamo of EMB Cordillera said that the sooner the creek is cleaned the better for the environment and for the hospital and contractor. “The sooner they finish the clean up the lesser their penalty will be,” he said.
Digamo explained that RA 9275 or the Clean Water Act provides that the computation for the penalty for polluting a water body will be per day that will start from the day. “The law provides that the penalty ranges from P10,000 to P200,000 per day starting from the day of water sampling until it is finally cleaned,” he said.
Digamo said it will be the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) who will decide on the penalty. He said EMB will just submit their findings.
EMB took water samples along the Bayacsan creek on July 20. Based on test results the total suspended solids exceeded what is allowed by the water quality guidelines. Test analyses showed that Bayacsan recorded 302 mg/liter suspended solids as opposed to the allowed 65mg/liter.
Digamo cautioned that the medical wastes are hazardous therefore proper handling and protective gears are needed. He ordered BMC to provide the necessary protective gears and conduct an orientation on the conduct of the cleanup and the handling of the medical wastes.
Calam-ang said his men have already started retrieving hospital wastes as early as July 11 when concerned community folks called his attention. But he admitted that they are not using the proper gear because they thought their usual rubber boots and bare hands would do.
Aside from polluting the Bayacsan creek and Tapuakan River, EMB investigation found that BMC also violated RA 6969 or the Toxic Substance, Hazardous and nuclear Wastes Act and RA 9003 or Ecological Solid Waste management Act for the excavation, transportation and illegal dumping of hospital wastes. The hospital was also found to have violated several conditions in its Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC).
Digamo pointed out that BMC even failed to secure an amendment of its ECC for the expansion of its parking lot.
“But despite all these violations I cannot just revoke their ECC and stop them from operating, what will happen to the patients?” Digamo said.
But Digamo revoked the accreditation of Engineer Bernard Balatian as Pollution Control Officer of BMC for his failure to monitor and report excavation and illegally transportation and dumping of their hospital wastes.
Engineer Nestor Donaal, chief of Clearance and Permitting Division of the EMB said that the RA 6969 requires all entities discharging toxic or hazardous wastes to have a PCO. He said that these PCOs must undergo trainings and comply with their requirements before getting accredited.
“Once your accreditation is revoked you can no longer be designated as a PCO again,” Donaal said.
He added that the BMC must install a new PCO before the year ends. # nordis.net