Davao dad hit for dismissing threats posed by incinerators to health, environment

Volunteers collected 1,159 different types of waste, mainly polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, Sando bags, soiled diapers, sanitary napkins, face masks, plastic spoons and forks, and bags during the 6th River Clean-up Drive and Fire Audit on Saturday September 17th 2022 at the Panigan-Tamugan watershed. Photo courtesy of IDIS

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / September 19) — A group expressed disappointment over the testimony of Temujin “Tek” Ocampo, Councilor of Davao City’s 1st Precinct, based on potential health hazards of a Waste Incinerator (WTE), which environmentalists said was raised “false information.”

In a statement sent to MindaNews on Monday, Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) reiterated its opposition to building a WTE project in Davao due to some serious health and environmental issues that an incinerator would cause.

Citing a study by Dr. Jorge Emmanuel, a professor of environmental science and engineering at Silliman University in Dumaguete City, told the group WTE incinerators release large amounts of highly toxic substances called dioxins and furans into the air.

Emmanuel was a former chief technical adviser for global environmental projects for the United Nations Development Programme.

The group added that inhaling dioxins and furans causes an “increased risk of tumors, cancer, asthma and other deadly diseases.”

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Ocampo, chairman of the Environment Committee, said on Aug. 30 last year that when building a WTE, “time is of the essence” given the increasing volume of waste generated in the city every day.

He said the city generates 600 to 800 tons of waste every day, which is more than enough to fill the new landfill, which is right next to the existing landfill, to the brim in five years.

Ocampo added that “first world countries” such as Japan and Singapore have used a similar facility to deal with solid waste and claimed WTE poses no environmental and health hazards to their populations.

According to another study by Lee Bell, POPs and Mercury Policy Advisor for the International Pollution Elimination Network, incineration would also generate large amounts of carbon and carbon equivalent (CO2e) emissions, according to IDIS.

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“Incinerators fueled by high-carbon plastic and organic waste streams currently emit on average about a tonne of carbon dioxide for every tonne of waste incinerated,” the group said.

It added that combustion byproducts don’t easily dissipate because these chemicals linger in the environment for 500 years, affecting 10 to 40 generations.

Dioxins and furans in the air could not only affect the residential areas in the immediate vicinity, “because wind circulation has the property of transporting pollutants over a regional distance of around 10 to 100 kilometers”.

The WTE project would cause serious health hazards not only in nearby communities, homes and schools but also in other areas of the city, it said.

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“Furthermore, toxic air pollutants can enter and contaminate our water and food resources such as crops, meat and fish through bioaccumulative processes. Councilor Ocampo should have considered these studies before releasing statements that the health hazards claimed by environmentalists were unfounded,” it said.

Citing the “precautionary principle,” the group said, “When human activities may result in serious and irreversible damage to the environment that is scientifically plausible but uncertain, action must be taken to avoid or reduce that threat.”

“This means that the existence of a threat or risk of critical damage to the environment and the lack of scientific certainty should not be used to avoid action to prevent that irreversible damage, particularly by government officials who have sworn.” have to protect their population. ” it said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)

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