HEALTH officials in Lapu-Lapu City have advised the public to avoid swimming in the Mactan Channel and foraging for shellfish, as the water may have been contaminated after infectious wastes from three private hospitals washed up on the shore of four barangays.
Dr. Agnes Realiza, the city health officer, said the possibility that the city’s coastal water had been contaminated was not farfetched, considering the volume of hazardous wastes that were found this week.
Mayor Paz Radaza echoed Realiza’s sentiment, saying it was no longer safe to swim in the Mactan Channel, especially since many vessels also used that stretch of water. However, it was still safe in the Hilutungan Channel, located on the opposite side of the island, she said.
Roderico Tagaan, City Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) chief, said they also found medical wastes off a shipyard in Barangay Poblacion on Wednesday, Jan. 9.
He believed the wastes had been there for a while because of its stench.
He said sanitary inspectors recovered blood bags marked for those afflicted with human immunodeficiency virus and small containers of sputum or phlegm.
The Lapu-Lapu City Government planned to charge those responsible for violating Republic Act (RA) 9275, or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004, and RA 6969, or the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Waste Control Act of 1990.
Notices of violations
As of Wednesday, local environmental officials found 50 kilos of medical wastes on the coasts of Barangays Ibo, Poblacion, Pusok and Pajo.
The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) 7, in a statement, said it would issue notices of violations to two firms after the medical wastes discovered in Ibo were traced back to them.
The EMB 7 already fined Chong Hua Hospital Mandaue and Cancer Center (CHHMCC) and its third-party service provider, Davao City Environmental Care Inc. (DCECI), P100,000 each for violating various environmental laws for failing to properly dispose of and transport infectious wastes.
The agency summoned the two firms to a technical conference on Wednesday to apprise them of their violations, which included violating the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Administrative Order (AO) 2013-22, or the Revised Procedures and Standards for the Management of Hazardous Waste, among others.
Based on the DCECI’s certificate of treatment, it was only allowed to collect and treat CHHMCC’s hazardous wastes up to September 2018. But DCECI personnel said they continued to do this until last Jan. 2, which was a violation of AO 2013-22 and had a corresponding penalty of P50,000, the EMB 7 said.
The EMB 7 also found out that the DCECI exceeded the allowable eight metric tons annual treatment capacity, which violated the conditions of its Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC). Non-compliance of ECC conditions was sufficient cause to suspend or cancel the ECC or impose a fine of P50,000, EMB 7 added.
The agency also called the CHHMCC’s attention to its violation of various environmental provisions, such as the failure to present manifest forms of previous and current collections of its medical wastes by DCECI.
The EMB 7’s investigation team also discovered that the data the CHHMCC declared on its self-monitoring report for the third quarter of 2018 didn’t match the data of the waste pull-out forms it presented to the agency.
The other “accused”
Aside from the CHHMCC and the DCECI, the EMB 7 also looked into another set of improperly disposed medical waste reportedly owned by the University of Cebu Medical Center (UCMed) that was found in Sitio Apro, Barangay Ibo earlier this week.
In a statement to SunStar Cebu, UCMed officials said they would conduct their own investigation since they also hired DCECI to dispose of their hazardous wastes.
“Please be assured that UCMed will conduct its own investigation and if necessary, put further measures to ensure compliance with existing laws, rules and regulations,” the statement said.
Lapu-Lapu City also sent a notice to the Dr. Ignacio Cortes General Hospital (DICGH) in Mandaue City, asking its officials to explain why its wastes reached the city’s shores across the channel.
Hospital officials held an emergency meeting with representatives of the company they hired to collect medical wastes.
In a related development, Mandaue Cenro Chief Araceli Barlam said she asked her counterpart in Lapu-Lapu City for a list of hospitals where the medical wastes originated.
Recovered among the medical wastes were stickers and documents from the CHHMCC, DICGH and UCMed.
Barlam said they would contact these hospitals. (From FMD, FVQ, HBL of SuperBalita Cebu, JKV, KAL)