Sunday, August 25, 2019

Garbage juice: The polluted leachate that leaks into our river system

BEFORE the Christmas season took over our collective attention, the city was cringing about the juice coming from the tons of garbage which has leaked out into the Matina Pangi River. Remedial measures are now being done but the risk of the garbage juice or leachate leaking out remains for as long as garbage is overflowing.

The garbage juice from the sanitary landfill in New Carmen has bothered residents living near the area not just because of the smell which they are already getting used to, but because of how it has been causing the death of their domestic animals.

“Muinit, unya kalit mubaha, unya baho kaayo ang duga sa basura. Maapektuhan gani ang among mga hayop mangamatay diria. Init ni siya og adlaw. Inig ulan mubaha na siya diri man pud padulong ang duga sa basura wala man pud laing kaagihan diri jud na siya," said Grace Lawa, whose house is situated few meters away below the impounding pond where the majority of the leachate or garbage juice were collected.

(It emits heat, then it (the water) overflows, and the smell stinks. Our farm animals are already affected some have even died. If there is flooding, the leachate go directly to us because the runoff has nowhere else to go but here)

This impounding pond was supposed to be temporary catch basin of the leachate that came out of filtration process. Leachate from the cell undergoes six filtration stages before reaching the impounding pond. But sadly not all of the juice goes to the normal filtration process as it was observed that garbage juice also flow meters away from the filtration pond but still goes to their impounding pond.

What is supposed to be the end destination of the leachate in the impounding pond, was not realized since the leachate exits through a hole in the impounding pond and this goes to the canal near Lawa’s home, and eventually leads to a creek, that leads to Matina Pangi River.

She has been raising ducks, geese, chicken, and pigs as livelihood, but she has lost many because of the pollution.

“Wala nagkasakit akong anak kay anad na man mi sa baho. Naapektuhan among mga hayop pati iro mangamatay,” she said.

(My cild is unaffected, since we are already used to the odor. It's our animals who are affected, even our dogs die)

She said she must have lost around 40 domestic animals. She described the leachate as emitting a different heat.

Allan Miguel, who said he has been a resident of the area for around 15 years said he also lost two hogs in November. But they have no choice but to stay on because scavenging is their life.

“I am not scavenging anymore as I often get sick brought about by old age. I only depend on my children for my needs,” he said adding that his children are the ones scavenging now.

The family is from Malita, Davao Occidental but found scavenging to be a more reliable source of daily income than farming.

“Nangita kami sa trabahuon namo na mas sayon kay pareha sa nang basura niana, dali ra man ang pag-kalkal (We found a job that's easier like scavenging. It's easy to sift through garbage),” Miguel said.

He said that he already sold the parcel of land he owned in Malita because that land could not yield enough to feed his family.

He said that right now, he grows bananas and rootcrops near his house which he sells at Bankerohan Public market.

While indeed the leachate causes them discomfort, life goes on.

Venus Flores, 42, has been fetching water from the potable water source near the river. She admitted that since a much nearer potable water source was broken, they have no choice but to go down and fetch water from the second nearest water source located a short distance from the creek.

Given the limited water source, she said, there are times when they have no choice but to bath and wash their clothes in the same creek the leachate flows into.

“Nagaligo mi diha usahay kung walay kaliguan. Among mga anak ginapuna lang na dili maligo sa gina-awasan sa duga sa basura, layo-layo lang gamay,” she said.

(We sometimes take our bath in there. We just remind our children to bathe farther from where the leachate is)

Flores added that the personnel from City Health Office go to their area frequently to check their children’s condition.

A mother of seven, Flores said that aside from cough and colds, her children have not acquired other forms of diseases.

Visiting the same river on a Saturday where mothers are busy with their laundry while keeping an eye out for their children playing in the water, you can almost not notice the dark, smelly water snaking and trailing its way to Matina Pangi River.

The City Government of Davao has already planned short term and long term plan to address the problem of leachate leak.

Days after SunStar Davao visited the landfill area on Saturday, November 18, after the issue of the leachate caught government attention, Supervising Environment Specialist of the Environmental Solid Waste and Management Division of the Davao City Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) Dolores Remojo already explained that they have already cleaned up the filtration pond which have six stages.

“Our immediate action is we borrowed a backhoe from the City Engineer’s Office to dig a ditch to divert the spillage that goes outside the filtration pond to go back to the filtration pond. The filtration pond has been full already, we cleaned it up so that leachate will flow to the six-stage filtration facility down to our impounding pond,” she said.

She said that once the leachate reaches the impounding pond this will be pumped out with the newly purchased submersible pump to the cell in a process of recirculation which the landfill was equipped for.

The previous pump according to Cenro office-in-charge Engineer Marivic Reyes was already broken since it was not appropriate to be pumping leachate.

Reyes in an interview with SunStar Davao last December 7, 2017, she said that they are working on the repair of the hole in the impounding pond brought about by lack of maintenance ever since the landfill was constructed in 2006.

She said that there is a portion of the cement which was cracked so they are doing their best to address it.

“We are doubling our effort for the maintenance of landfill, we assigned additional personnel in the area,” Reyes said adding that they assigned an engineer in the area tasked to conduct daily landfill monitoring and will man landfill checking stations.

She said that leachate from the impounding pond is not as dark since the leachate undergo filtration.

“Kung musubay sa Banaag Creek dili na dark kaayo,” she said.

(If you observe Banaag Creek, the water flowing into it is no longer as dark)

For its long term solution in also the area addressing the spillage, a fleet of heavy equipment is already in the area to work on the landfill rehabilitation, so that the garbage thrown outside the cell which was identified source of leachate spillage will be gathered back to the cell and the juice will be filtered.

At present, they are also compacting the garbage to make more room for the daily garbage.

“Eventually the landfill will have to be closed. That is if we will find another site,” she said.

Reyes said that the 3.4 hectare landfill built in 2006 is already full, and with an average of 500 tons garbage collection daily they can only just rehabilitate so it can take in more garbage and that they cannot cover it with land until they find another landfill.

The landfill built in the year 2006, according to previous study can just hold garbage for five to six years. But waste segregation somehow reduced the garbage volume, thus there was still space to fill up after six years.

Their major concern now is garbage collection and segregation from the source.

She admitted that the landfill now carries mixed waste, validating the Commission on Audit’s recent findings.

Reyes said that this information is true since they rely on the barangays to segregate waste.

“We consider that the garbage thrown in collection points is already residual waste meaning it does not have any use anymore,” she said.

The dilemma they have now is that their office cannot refuse to collect unsegregated garbage collected daily.

Even with more and more garbage piling up every day, the City Planning and Development Office have yet to identify lot where another landfill could be built.
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