POLLUTION in the Butuanon River worsened last year, according to a report by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Central Visayas that was released recently.

The annual report by DENR 7’s Environmental Management Bureau said the biological oxygen demand (BOD) exceeded the target value of 15 milligrams per liter (mg/L) for Class D bodies of water.

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Butuanon River is Class D, meaning water from the upstream area can still be used for drinking and washing, but the middle and downstream portions are for industrial purposes or used as a drainage canal.

The DENR 7 report states the agency considers monitoring the water quality of the 23-kilometer Butuanon River one of its major concerns.

The tests measure BOD concentrations and oxygen levels.

The BOD is a measure of the oxygen used by microorganisms to decompose waste. A high BOD value means a large quantity of organic waste is present in the water supply, which requires a lot of bacteria to decompose the waste.

Butuanon’s BOD levels increased in April and June, with values pegged at 172.9 mg/L or 11 times higher than the standard. This was mainly due to the summer or dry season, the report said.

There were improvements in water quality between July and September, but the average value taken during monthly tests from January to December 2009 was 51.8 mg/L.

This is three times higher than the standard compared to levels recorded in 2008.

“There is an increase in the pollution of the Butuanon River compared to 2008 data,” the report said.

Highest

Compared with the 2007 BOD average result of 48.2 mg/L or just three times higher than standard, the latest figures are the highest in three years.

The environment agency, in its report, said monitoring activities are part of efforts for stakeholders to improve water quality, in response to complaints from the public.

The agency has nine sampling stations: Cambaga-ong bridge, Butuanon bridge, Tingub bridge, Greenhills outfall, Pilit Treasure Island, Old Pilit (HJR outfall), Canduman bridge, Bacayan bridge and Sta. Lucia bridge.

A large portion of the pollution, DENR 7 said, comes from industrial effluents. The highest average BOD level was taken from the Cambaga-ong station (168.6 mg/L), the most polluted portion of the river.

“On the other hand, the most upstream (portion of the river) has the lowest BOD of 2.07 mg/L since lesser pollutant sources are located in that station. This confirms that the most polluted part is the downstream portion of the Butuanon River. This shows that the river is still far from rehabilitation,” the report stated.

Guadalupe Latonio, Citizens’ League for Ecological Awareness and Responsibility (Clear) head, told Sun.Star Cebu there has been minimal or no change in the quality of water in the Butuanon River for years.

“There are no more easement zones, the people are going right into the river,” she

added.

The environment group regularly conducts riverbank protection activities such as tree planting and river clean-up drives.

Latonio made a presentation before lawyers at the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) session last Saturday.

“Results (of tests conducted on the river) are not very good in the Mandaue City side. But in the upstream portion of the river, particularly at Binaliw-Pulang Bato area,

the water is still good,” she said.

Latonio also noted that the Butuanon River Watershed Management Board was dormant for 10 years, but was recently revived by Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes. But there are still questions raised on where to source funds and personnel for the board.