APALIT -- The Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on Wednesday, October 4, issued a notice of violation to Far East Alcohol Corporation (Feaco) due to accidental disposal of molasses in Pampanga River.
The notice was served during the ocular inspection conducted by the EMB represented by Rey Cruz, Provincial Government Environment and Natural Resources Office chief Art Punsalan and the Apalit local government headed by Mayor Peter Nucom at the plant in Barangay Sulipan.
The service of notice of violation stemmed from the accidental breakage of Feaco's 65-ton storage tank that leaked molasses to Pampanga River and allegedly caused the fish kill in adjacent Macabebe and Masantol towns.
The notice is accompanied with penalties, including the temporary closure and suspension of operations of the 30-year-old alcohol plant, Punsalan said in a statement.
Punsalan said the suspension will be lifted once all mandatory requirements, such as rehabilitation and procurement of Environmental Compliance Certificate, permits from the Apalit local government, as well as from the affected towns of Macabebe and Masantol are secured.
It could be remembered that fisherfolk and residents of Masantol reported a mass fish kill in their portion of the Pampanga River on the morning of September 20.
Former vice mayor now Emergency Coastal Officer Marcelo Lacap, Jr. immediately suspected that the chemical waste from Feaco caused the fish kill, but was later confirmed that it was "hyphoxia" or loss of oxygen that triggered the incident.
In an exclusive interview with SunStar Pampanga, Feaco General Manager Antonio Co said the alcohol plant is undergoing rehabilitation to ensure that the accidental breakage of its storage tanks will not happen again.
He stressed that the four storage tanks underwent maintenance work to ensure that it can hold the high volume of molasses.
Co added that the storage tanks will not be filled to its maximum volume to ensure that it can withstand the pressure.
He also said that a 50-meter spill wall is now being constructed around the storage tanks to protect the Pampanga River from another chemical waste leak.
He also requested to commission a structural engineer to issue a certification of the structural integrity of all the tanks to avoid accidental disposal from happening again.
"We are very much willing to comply with all the requirements and coordinate with officials to address all concerns. We understand the consequences that we must face due to the accidental leak and we thank the agencies concerned for the guidance they are giving us to resolve the matter," Co said.
He also maintained that the molasses leak could not be the cause of mass fish kill as it is not toxic to humans or animals, but vowed to disperse 200,000 fingerlings in Pampanga River as assistance to affected fisherfolk.