Davao father hit for rejecting threats posed by incinerators to health and environment

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Volunteers recovered 1,159 miscellaneous waste, mainly polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, sando bags, soiled diapers, sanitary napkins, face masks, plastic spoons and forks and sachets during the 6th campaign River Cleanup and Brand Audit on Saturday, September 17, 2022 at the Panigan-Tamugan Watershed. Photo courtesy of IDIS

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/September 19) – A group has expressed disappointment at Davao City 1st District Councilor Temujin “Tek” Ocampo’s statement that potential health risks from a beneficiation facility Waste Energy (WTE) claims raised by environmental advocates were based on “wrong information.”

In a statement sent to MindaNews on Monday, Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) reiterated its opposition to the construction of a WTE project in Davao due to serious health and environmental issues an incinerator would cause.

Citing a study conducted by Dr. Jorge Emmanuel, a professor of environmental science and engineering at Silliman University in Dumaguete City, the group said WTE incinerators release large amounts of highly toxic substances called dioxins and furans.

Emmanuel was the former Chief Technical Advisor on Global Environmental Projects for the United Nations Development Programme.

The group added that inhaling dioxins and furans leads to an “increased risk of tumors, cancer, asthma and other fatal diseases”.

Ocampo, who chairs the environment committee, said on August 30 that “time is running out” in building a WTE due to the growing volume of waste being generated daily in the city.

He said the city generates 600 to 800 tons of trash a day, which would be more than enough to fill the new sanitary landfill located right next to the existing landfill to the brim in five years.

Ocampo added that “first world countries” like Japan and Singapore have used a similar facility to treat solid waste, saying WTE does not pose risks to the environment and the health of their people.

IDIS said waste incineration would also generate large amounts of carbon and carbon equivalent (CO2e) emissions based on another study by Lee Bell, policy adviser on POPs and Mercury for the International Pollution Elimination Network.

“Waste incinerators fueled by high-carbon plastics and organic waste streams currently release on average about one tonne of carbon dioxide for every tonne of waste incinerated, the group said.

He added that incinerator by-products do not dissipate easily because these chemicals remain in the environment for 500 years, affecting 10 to 40 generations.

He said dioxins and furans in the air could affect not only nearby residential communities “since wind circulations have the characteristics of transporting pollutants over a regional distance of approximately 10 to 100 kilometres.”

The WTE project would cause serious health risks not only to nearby communities, residences and schools, but also to other areas of the city, he said.

“In addition, toxic air pollutants can enter and contaminate our water and food resources, such as crops, meat and fish, through bioaccumulative processes. Councilor Ocampo should have considered these studies before issuing statements that the health risks claimed by environmentalists have no basis,” he said.

Citing the “precautionary principle”, the group said that “when human activities may lead to threats of serious and irreversible damage to the environment which are scientifically plausible but uncertain, measures should be taken to avoid or diminish this threat”. .

“This means that the presence of a threat or risk of critical damage to the environment and the fact that it lacks scientific certainty should not be used to avoid taking action to prevent such irreversible damage, in especially by government officials who have sworn to protect their people,” it said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)

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