Green Groups Demand Cleanup of Contaminated Dumpsites as RP Marks World Environment Day

Quezon City. In a lively meeting held yesterday on the eve of the World Environment Day, 16 citizens’ groups vowed to intensify efforts to have the country’s polluting dumpsites closed and decontaminated.

Led by the EcoWaste Coalition, the groups pledged to campaign for government, corporate and citizen action to minimize pollution of the air, soil and water from gaseous and liquid contaminants coming from all abandoned and still operating dumpsites.

“The threat of far-reaching pollution is real. We need to discontinue dumping and put in place all the essential measures and safeguards to reduce, if not thwart, the threats of chemical pollution,” said Rei Panaligan, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“It is not enough just to fence the dumps and cover the stinking trash with soil. These are contaminated spots requiring stringent rehabilitation and monitoring even after their closure,” he emphasized.

The National Solid Waste Management Commission, according to the EcoWaste Coalition, should treat the country’s over 1,000 dumpsites as contaminated sites and marshal the required technical expertise and resources to ensure post-closure pollution prevention and surveillance.

The Coalition cited US federal regulation requiring 30-year monitoring and maintenance after closure of “state-of-the-art” landfills because of threats to groundwater quality and other health and environmental issues.

“We are particularly concerned on how the toxic leachate from mixed waste dumpsites, especially those located in watersheds or near water bodies, can adversely affect our long-term access to clean water as well as safe food,” said Beau Baconguis, Toxics Campaigner of Greenpeace.

Leachate, as defined under R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, is a contaminated liquid produced when waste undergoes decomposition, and when water percolates through waste undergoing decomposition.

Old and new dumps located near or within watersheds and critical water sources such as the Laguna Lake basin and the Ipo and Marikina watersheds can leach dangerous contaminants, from pathogens to persistent toxic chemicals, which can seriously threaten water safety and food security, the groups said.

“The closure, cleanup and rehabilitation of all dumpsites should also be undertaken with earnest attention and speed to ease their impacts on the changing climate,” Noli Abinales of Buklod Tao said.

Dumpsites are major producers of methane, a climate-warming gas, formed from the decomposition of organic materials without oxygen. Methane is 72 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame.

“Knowing that many people subsist by reclaiming recyclables in dumpsites, we find it necessary for closure plans to include concrete opportunities for humane and sustainable livelihood for waste pickers,” stated Amy Derano of the Diocese of Caloocan Ecology Ministry.

Present at the meeting were the representatives of the Advocates for Environment and Social Justice, Akbayan-Bulacan, Buklod Tao, Concerned Citizens Against Pollution, Diocese of Caloocan Ecology Ministry, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace, Health Care Without
Harm, Krusada sa Kalikasan, Mother Earth Foundation, November 17 Movement, Sanib Lakas ng Inang Kalikasan, Save Sierra Madre Environmental Society, Sining Yapak, Upholding Life and Nature, Zero Waste Recycling Movement of the Philippines Foundation, Inc.