THE Cagayan de Oro City Council wants to probe the reported leak of garbage leachate from the Pagalungan sanitary landfil into the Iponan River that has allegedly been affecting residents of nearby barangay San Simon.
The council is planning to convene as a committee of the whole to look into reports that garbage slush that is getting into the river is reportedly causing skin irritation among residents of the village, a claim that has been disputed by the City Local Environment and Natural Resources Office (Clenro).
In her special report during Monday's regular session, opposition councilor Nadia Emano-Elipe wants the Clenro to explain and address the problem as soon as possible.
Emano-Elipe said she received reports from San Simon village officials regarding the potential health hazard.
Aside from health issues, fishing and other river-based livelihood activities of residents have also been affected, Emano-Elipe said.
The Clenro had earlier dismissed the allegations after it tested water from the river for the supposed contamination and found that water remains within the standard.
But councilor Edna Dahino, the vice-chairperson of the environment and natural resources committee, also said earlier that the lecheate pond is shallow and stinking garbage juices are coming out of the landfill especially during and after heavy rain.
"The point is kung naay mahulog nga tubig gikan sa landfill, dapat i-address siya as soon as possible kay naay mga tawo gaka-apektuhan (The point is if there is leakage, it should be addressed immediately)," Emano-Elipe said.
"Regardless kung mag-ulan or dili kinahanglan siya matagaan og action (Regardless of weather condition, the city government must act on it)," she added.
"Ang atong priority man diri is health sa katawhan ug ang ilang livelihood busa kinahanglan siya masulbad dayon (Our priority is the people and their health and livelihood)," she said.
The health committee chairperson Councilor Ma. Lourdes Gaane is being eyed to head the investigation.
"Walay timeline sa investigation pero hopefully naa na dayon result Asap para mahupay ang katawhan (There is no timeline for the probe but hopefully we can get results ASAP so we will not be worrying anymore),"Emano-Elipe said.
Edgardo Naguio, the city's solid waste management coordinator for the second district, said it is possible the complaints raised by the San Simon village council are being used to malign the administration of Mayor Oscar Moreno by his political opponents.
“We could not understand the motive of [the San Simon] barangay council,” he said, adding that the local government unit of San Simon has yet to present concrete proof to substantiate its claim.
In the reported fish kill and ill-effects of the sanitary landfill’s liquid waste, Naguio said the council has not shown any evidence that could support their complaint.
He said not one killed fish was presented, and no one from San Simon had gone to the health facility there to complain of skin illness.
For her part, Solid Waste Management division chief Elvisa Mabelin has maintained that the leachate from the Pagalungan landfill is under control and that it’s not the factor that had caused the alleged fish kill and skin irritation.
She said all the liquid from the wastes, called leachate, in the landfill stays in the cell, a portion of the landfill where the garbage is dumped and covered with soil. The Pagalungan landfill is composed of several cells.
The cell’s flooring is covered with lining material preventing any liquid to seep to the ground or flow into the nearby creek, but a pipe is installed underneath the cell so the fluids from the wastes go directly to the leachate pond.
If the leachate pond has reached a certain level, it is then pumped back into the cell. This is to ensure that the leachate will not overflow.
The process to control the leachate, Mabelin said, is through “circulation and evaporation.”
She also made it clear that “the rainwater that flows to Iponan river is not contaminated by the leachate” from the landfill.
That’s why, she said, it is not likely that the leachate will contaminate the Iponan river and affect the marine life and the well-being of the people in San Simon.
Besides, she added, the Pagalungan landfill has only been in operation for seven months, so any contamination on Iponan river’s water is not that “significant.”
She said the environment agencies must conduct further investigation to determine what really caused those problems.
Mabelin said the Environment Management Bureau (EMB) in the region has taken water samples from the river and result of the test has yet to be announced.
Pagalungan village council member Edmund Llusala said that since the landfill started its operation, they have not noticed any adverse effect on the residents.
Published in the SunStar Cagayan de Oro newspaper on November 21, 2017.