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Marikina probes fish kill incident in Nangka river

MARIKINA CITY, Philippines – The Marikina city government is investigating a possible chemical leak in Nangka River after residents reported dead janitor fish floating in the river since Monday, June 22.

"We have sent an enforcement team to Barangay Fortune to see if the leak came from any of the factories there," said Engineer Oliver Villamena of the City Environment Management Office (CEMO) on Wednesday, June 24.

Fortune village is upriver from Nangka village where the dead fish were observed.

When Rappler visited the site, there were still dead fish drifting on the water.

Romeo Escobedo, a bridgekeeper of the San Mateo-Marikina bridge, said he had observed the dead fish since Monday.

"Mabaho na kasi maghapon sila diyan, nangamoy na (It's smelly because the fish have been there the whole afternoon; they've started to stink)," he told Rappler.

On Monday, even before dead fish began appearing, there was already something unusual observed in the river.

Fish that used to be difficult to catch could easily be snatched from the water by hand, said Jay Enecillo, a laborer hired by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority to build a watchtower on the bridge.

"Parang nahihilo 'yung isda, siguro dahil nga nalason (The fish seemed dizzy, maybe because they were poisoned)," he told Rappler.

After that, the dead fish started appearing in droves, at one time piling up on dry parts of the river.

Factories to blame?

The many factories upriver are possible sources of the leak, said Villamena.

The factories in the area up for investigation include those of Phillip Morris Fortune Tobacco, Tower Steel, Goya Chocolate, a diaper-making company, and more.

POISONED? Dead fish float in Nangka River, Marikina. Photo by Raul Batica

POISONED? Dead fish float in Nangka River, Marikina.

Photo by Raul Batica

Fortune village councilor Renato Oliveros said toxic chemicals may have also come from piggeries in the San Mateo side of the river. Marikina City has already prohibited piggeries.

Once results from the enforcement team come in, Villamena will request the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to conduct a water test, he told Rappler.

Asked about the possible cause of the leak, he said: "It may have been done on purpose. Maybe the factory released the waste to get rid of it without expecting any manifestations in the river. Maybe something went wrong with their equipment."

There are steps taken by both the DENR and the Marikina city government to safeguard against river contamination, he added.

All factories operating beside waterways like Nangka River must have been given an Environmental Compliance Certificate from the DENR. All are required to treat their wastewater before it goes into the drainage system.

Factories are also required to have contingency plans in case such a leak occurs, and to pay for river rehabilitation. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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