Saturday, March 23, 2019

Official: Fishkill in Pontevedra caused by ethanol plant pollution

A FISHKILL has hit the rivers of Pontevedra, initially affecting three barangays of the southern Negros Occidental town, reports said.

Joan Nathaniel Gerangaya, head of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro)-Bago, said they sent a team to validate the fishkill reports received by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Central Office Wednesday.

Gerangaya said the team reported that the fishkill has initially affected upstream portions of Barangay San Juan as manifested by dead tilapias floating in the river.

He added that Mayor Jose Benito Alonso Thursday informed him that the fishkill had spread to portions of rivers in Barangays 1 and 2.

River waters in the area have discolored and the number of dead fishes has increased, he added.

“We already submitted the report to DENR through the Environmental Management Bureau which caters to water pollution concerns,” Gerangaya said.

The DENR, along with the local government of Pontevedra, took water samples subjected to laboratory test.

Pending the result, Cenro-Bago already has suspicion that the discoloration of water was caused by the wastewater of bioethanol plant Roxol Bionergy Corp. (RBC) situated in the neighboring Barangay Nagasi, La Carlota City.

Gerangaya said “there is no other cause of water contamination in the area, only the plant’s wastewater flowing at the river.”

Production of other marine products like crabs and shells has also been affected by the recurring water pollution, he added.

“Since 2015, the plant’s wastewater has been discharged to the river particularly when the substance in its treatment facility overflows,” Gerangaya said, adding that there were arrangements with the local government before in terms of payment for the damages.

The resolution of the issue is under the jurisdiction of the DENR-EMB, Gerangaya said as he pointed that water contamination poses health risks to the residents.

Alonso said they have yet to wait for the result of the laboratory test to validate whether the fishkill is really caused by RBC’s wastewater.

The mayor, however, acknowledged that the river in La Carlota City is directly connected to the river in his town.

“Some fisherfolk have been complaining against the water discoloration which may adversely affect their ponds,” he added.

In September last year, the City Government of La Carlota issued a 30-day suspension against the RBC, the bioethanol subsidiary of Roxas Holdings Inc., after its plant emitted a foul odor affecting eight barangays of the city.

The following weeks, the cease and desist order was lifted after the foul odor coming from the plant was addressed.

Upon the lifting of the order, the operations of RBC were still suspended due to maintenance repairs of its plant. It resumed operations in October last year.

Lawyer Florencio Mamauag Jr., firm’s vice president and legal and corporate affairs compliance officer, had earlier said that the company is committed to institute long-term solutions to address the issue.

They even suspended their operations right away to immediately address the foul odor, he added.
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