Preventing dumpsite disasters after ‘Maring’

Remember the Payatas 'garbageslide' in 2000 and the Baguio dumpsite crash in 2011? They can happen again.

PILING UP. The Payatas landfill in Quezon City is one of the many garbage facilities vulnerable to storms and flooding. Photo from AFP/Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines – What happens to our dumpsites after storms like “Maring”?

They may turn into disasters.

The Payatas “garbageslide” in 2000 happened after days of nonstop rain. In 2009, the perimeter wall of the Rodriguez landfill in Rizal Province gave way at the height of Typhoon Kiko, unleashing garbage into a nearby creak.

The same thing happened in 2011 at the Irisan dumpsite in Baguio City. This time, the crashing garbage killed 5 people.

This prompted EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental group promoting zero waste and public health, to call on the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) to inspect all garbage dumspites, landfills, and transfer stations in Metro Manila and nearby provinces following the onslaught of “Maring” and the southwest monsoon. 

NSWMC is under the Office of the President. It is chaired by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The floods and incessant rain that paralyzed Metro Manila and 10 provinces in Central and Southern Luzon the past 3 days “might have loosened  the mass of garbage, created water pools, damaged leachate collection ponds, weakened retention walls or destroyed the fencing of waste facilities in storm-affected areas,” said Christina Vergara of the EcoWaste Coalition. 

Leachate is a contaminated liquid produced when garbage decomposes and when water seeps into decomposing solid waste. Many types of leachate, especially leachate from plastic, can contaminate groundwater and pose health hazards to humans exposed to the water, according to a British Geological Survey technical report

“As a precaution against hazardous ‘garbageslides’ and spills waiting to happen, we urge the NSWMC to proactively work with local government units as well as with private operators in assessing the safety of the facilities following the harsh weather situations,” she said.

According to the NSWMC database, there are 21 sanitary landfills, 73 open dumpsites, and 36 controlled dumpsites located in Metro Manila, Region 3 (Central Luzon), and Region 4A (CALABARZON).

There are operating landfills in:

  • Norzagaray, Bulacan
  • San Jose Del Monte City, Bulacan
  • Santa Rosa, Nueva Ecija
  • Capas, Tarlac
  • Trece Martires City, Cavite
  • Kalayaan, Calamba City, Laguna
  • San Pedro City, Laguna
  • Morong, Rizal
  • Rodriguez, Rizal
  • San Mateo, Rizal
  • Navotas City, Metro Manila
  • Quezon City, Metro Manila

Looking for solid solutions

The group emphasized that even if some landfills now use pollution mitigation devices, rigorous maintenance and monitoring should still be observed. 

But post-storm monitoring of dumpsites and landfills cannot be the only solution. Ensuring that garbage is less toxic and more efficiently handled helps prevent dumpsite disasters and limits the harm that garbage can inflict on humans. 

The group says the solution starts in production, when products can be redesigned to be eco-friendly and require less packaging. The promotion of segregation, reuse, recycling, and composting is also a step in the right direction.

Concerned citizens of areas near dumpsites and landfills can look to the law for guidance. Republic Act No 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, delegates the City or Municipal Solid Waste Management Board to implement rules “for the safe and sanitary management of solid waste generated in areas under its geographic and political coverage.”

The law empowers the DENR secretary or agency representative to enter the premises of garbage facilities to investigate violations being made. Citizens are encouraged to keep a close eye on how garbage facilities are managed. –

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