Editorial: Dark air

(Editorial Cartoon by John Gilbert Manantan)

YOU probably don’t need to look far for dark air from Indonesia. Weeks ago, Apo Cement Corporation’s Continuous Emission Monitoring System (CEMS) test shows inconsistencies and spikes in carbon monoxide (CO) emission.

Engr. William Cuñado, Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) 7 head, said the guideline value for Sulfure dioxide (within 24-hour averaging) is at 1,500 milligrams per cubic meter (mg/Nm3); Nitrogen Oxide at 1,500mg/Nm3; the particulate matter is at 150 mg/Nm3, and the CO is at 500mg/Nm3.

However, on Aug. 3, 8 p.m., APO’s CO emissions was at 532.47 mg/Nm3. On Aug. 26, 7 p.m., CO emission was at 562.15 mg/Nm3.

Carbon monoxide is a common industrial hazard resulting from the incomplete burning of materials containing carbon such as natural gas, gasoline, kerosene, oil, propane, coal, or wood. The CEMS is a tool to monitor toxic gas emissions in industrial settings.

In a meeting with Apo representatives Monday Sept. 16, Cebu Gov. Gwerndolyn Garcia sought an explanation from the former as to why its CO emissions exceeded air quality standards.

“There are emissions. So that means, you do not even monitor; you did not explain. Had you seen this, you will have ready answer for me now. What use is this online emission data when nobody is even analyzing it?” asked the governor.

Although the 24-hour averaging did not show that the values exceeded the safety threshold, some hourly figures apparently showed toxic levels.

Cuñado said exceeding standards has it corresponding penalties, but the guidelines do not specify penalties for hourly exceedance.

“For me, we need that policy. It’s purpose is for us to know the real emissions of the company in every hour of their operations,” said Cuñado.

Two things are to be noted in that meeting: One, that Apo representatives failed to adequately explain the spikes in the CEMS test to the governor, Garcia is right in questioning whether the firm has mechanisms in analyzing or reviewing the figures in their CEMS tests. It may not be right to rely solely on the 24-hour averaging and render invisible the toxic spikes in some hours of operation. What goes into the air goes into the air, and reaches the public not in their 24-hour average amount. Two, Cuñado is right, the guidelines have to state penalties for exceedance in the hourly tests.

In a statement sent to SunStar Cebu, Apo said it fully understands the governor’s concern and assured to “work closely with their regulators and remain transparent to their stakeholders.”

“Our plant has experienced spikes in CO due to the impact of high moisture content of locally-sourced materials which are utilized by the plant as part of its initiatives to undertake environmentally sustainable processes,” a portion of the statement read.


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