Greenpeace ‘Water Patrol’ spotlights toxics pollution

Marilao, Bulacan, 12 October 2007— A team of Greenpeace ‘Water Patrol’ activists today called attention to the shocking extent of pollution in Marilao River by unfurling a 28-meter banner with the words “Stop toxic pollution, protect our water resources” along Marilao Bridge in Bulacan province, 25 kilometers north of Manila. The activists also floated giant rubber fish skeletons along the river to underline the river’s death, as two volunteers in protective suits took water samples from the notorious body of water to determine its exact toxicity levels.

“Toxics pollution killed Marilao River, and it is now endangering the lives and livelihoods of nearby communities who rely on this resource,” said Greenpeace Toxics Campaigner Beau Baconguis. “We are putting this river in the spotlight as a classic example of how unhampered industrial pollution is threatening our freshwater supply.”

Marilao River has been identified by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as one of the country’s 50 dead rivers due to heavy pollution. The river is regularly monitored by the Environment Monitoring Board (EMB), and, along with Meycauayan River, has consistently shown excess levels of the dangerous heavy metals chromium, cadmium, and lead. According to the EMB, Marilao river has also registered zero dissolved oxygen levels and high levels of organic pollution. This has also been confirmed by recent tests conducted by Greenpeace on water samples taken from the river. Last month, a US-based group also listed it as among the 30 dirtiest places in the world due to industrial waste dumping.

Industries found along the river’s banks include tanneries, textiles, recycling of electronics for gold, silver and other precious metals recovery and refining. Dumpsites, and a large lead smelting plant, Philippine Recyclers Inc. (PRI), are also located directly beside it. The lead plant in particular was the subject of two Greenpeace reports in 1996 (“Lead Overload: Lead Battery Waste Trade and Recycling in the Philippines) and, again, in 2003 (Toxics Reloaded: Revisiting the Impacts of Lead Battery Waste Trade and Recycling in the Philippines) for lead contamination. Effluent samples taken from a discharge canal of the PRI contained lead levels of 190 ppm or 3,800 times higher than the 0.05 ppm or mg/L standard set for lead in effluent from old and existing industries.

No effective measures, however, have been undertaken to rehabilitate the river which continues to receive toxic effluents from various sources. Although DENR Secretary Lito Atienza had recently promised to revive Marilao River in two years, the government agency has not identified the sources of pollution, or disclosed the particulars of scientific tests which the agency may have conducted in the past as part of its environmental monitoring efforts.

“We are taking water samples from the river as part of our Water Patrol activities. We believe that communities have a right to know what chemicals are lurking in their water and the dangers these may pose to their health and well-being. By putting the spotlight on this polluted river, we hope to catalyze much-needed action to reverse the continuing decline of our water resources,” added Baconguis.

Greenpeace recently launched ‘Project Clean Water’ which aims to bring people together toward a common goal of safeguarding our water sources. Through its ‘Water Patrol’, in the coming months, be looking at other freshwater systems threatened by toxics pollution in the coming months.