Chemist lectures on hazards of proposed incineration plant

Jan. 07, 2010

By Media Mindanao News Service
News Digest Volume 1, August 1987-July 1988
Posted by Davao Today

ILIGAN CITY  (MMNS/September 15, 1987) — A noted chemist in a symposium at a state college here Wednesday warned the public of the hazards that may result from the installation of an “incineration plant with cogeneration” in this southern industrial city. The proposed plant has been the subject of controversy here after getting the mayor’s and the city council’s approval without “appropriate public hearings” conducted.

The LPT Development, Inc. — an American corporation — in its firm offer said the proposed plant will generate some 3,000 jobs.

The incineration plant, a similar of which is already in operation in the islands of American Samoa (a US protectorate in the pacific), is supposed to eliminate the effects of toxic waste materials thru incineration and at the same time utilize the heat generated to produce “cheap electrical power to the community.” Its raw materials, according to the project proponent, are “municipal garbage and imported waste materials.”

Prof. Zenaida Ochotorena, who holds a doctorate degree in chemistry from Michigan State University and current dean of the graduate studies program of the Mindanao State University Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT), cautioned  that the “imported wastes  will most probably consist of (those) which cannot be disposed of in the exporter’s country because of risk and stringent environmental control standards.”

Speaking to some 300 forum participants, including some members of this city’s Sangguniang Panlungsod, Dr. Ochotorena noted that the disposal of hazardous wastes in the United States has become a pressing problem and quoted an American environmentalist as saying that “Everyone wants these wastes managed, but not in their backyard and the entire nation is someone’s backyard.”

She said that of the 77.1 billion pounds of American hazardous waste, only “10 per cent is disposed in an environmentally safe manner.” Quoting the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ochotorena said that some 2,000 dump sites in continental United States “present potential imminent public health hazards.”

The chemist, who was also scholar at the University of the Philippines when she took up her masteral studies, said that even with the 99.9999 percent destruction removal efficiency (DRE) claimed by the proposing firm, the incineration plant still poses grave dangers to the community. She asked local government officials if they are “ready and willing to shoulder the burden of taking care of living dead.”

“It seems that there is still a lot to consider before putting up an incineration plant in Iligan City. The number of jobs to be generated, the foreign exchange to help increase the dollar reserve of the Central Bank, the pride of having a pioneer industry, and the financial assistance which could be correctly called rental have to be weighed against the possible health hazard from carcinogenic, mutagenic and toxic materials, the economic difficulties and heartaches in curing the sick and the invalids and defectives; and most of all the endless nightmare of what is beyond tomorrow,” the chemistry professor stressed.

Engr. Gil Aberilla, one of the three councilmen who voted against the construction of the plant, said “they must have some motive which we are not yet capable of discerning.”

“Why do they have to spend a lot just to ship their waste here? And, if they are in business, why do they have to give an aid amounting to $2-million monthly to the government?” Aberilla queried.

The councilor added that the project might become some sort of a “Trojan Horse” which the Americans may include in the shipment of their garbage some hidden nuclear weapons.

Aberilla also pointed out that the said generation of cheap electrical power would be nothing compared to the hydroelectric plants along the Agus River in Lanao. “Water is still the cheapest way by which electricity could be generated,” he added.

Vice Mayor Romeo Maata, reacting to the views of the resource speaker, said that “if only people like Dr. Ochotorena were around when public hearing was conducted last month, we would have been guided accordingly in our decision.” This, however, was rebutted by school officials that no invitation for such consultation was received.

Maata also said that “there are still things we could do to prevent the construction of the plant. The resolution we passed was not a permit to construct the project, but only an endorsement. Manila people will have to say the final word.”

The symposium was sponsored by the Coordination Center for Research and Development of MSU-ITT.  (Media Mindanao News Service News Digest Volume 1, August 1987-July 1988 Posted by Davao Today)

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