JG Summit plant violated environmental regulations –DENR
MANILA, Philippines – Government environmental regulators said the JG Summit chemical plant in Batangas violated environmental standards, leading to the release of foul odor and black smoke that affected nearby villages.
"The odor is a violation. They should have mitigating measures. They don't have control facilities," said Carlos Magno, Calabarzon Regional Director of the Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) on Wednesday, August 19.
JG Summit Petrochemical Corporation, the company that runs the plant, has been ordered to submit within 10 days an explanation of the violation, Magno told Rappler.
"If we see in their explanation that the violation was due to negligence or was not in good faith, we will fine them P50,000 ($1,080) per violation," he added.
The company would not be fined if the violation was due to "factors beyond their control."
Asked if the lack of control facilities already qualified the plant as deserving of penalties, Magno said his agency would wait for JG Summit's explanation.
The facility, which manufactures plastic products, was given the order on Tuesday, August 18, during a technical conference between company representatives and environment officials.
Village leaders, non-governmental organizations, and Batangas city officials were also present.
But despite government action, locals say they still notice a smell.
"May amoy pa pero humina na. Ngayon, patay na ang apoy (There is still a smell but it's weaker. Right now, there is no flame.)," said Arnold Briton, village captain of San Andres in Verde Island. He texted Rappler at around 6 pm on Wednesday.
Tell-tale black smoke
The EMB's findings were based on an initial investigation by personnel who visited the plant on August 14, a day after complaints by villagers of a nauseating smell made it to news reports.
Magno said the EMB team noticed the odor and saw black smoke rising from one of the plant's chimneys.
The color of the smoke indicated there was something wrong with the facility's operations.
"When the smoke is black, it's bad because anything black is unburnt. The combustion process was not completed. This means a release of hazardous compounds that may have a long-term impact on people," Magno told Rappler.
Aside from submitting an explanation, JG Summit is ordered to conduct an air quality study to determine if pollutants are still in the atmosphere. Specifically, they are asked to look for hydrogen sulfide, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and acid rain.
The study is to be done by an "objective third party," said Magno.
DENR-EMB also requires them to replace "the hydrocarbon canister regularly to regulate the foul odor emitted during operation," reads the disposition of the technical conference obtained by Rappler.
The canister is used during operations to burn hydrocarbons. If the canisters are not maintained properly, particles can get trapped in the hydrocarbons.
These particles are not completely burned, thus forming solid carbon compounds which take the form of soot or black smoke. Certain types of soot are known to be cancer-causing.
DENR-EMB also recommended that JG Summit install a Continuous Ambient Monitoring System to that would improve its ability to detect pollutants coming from their plant.
Such a system would monitor the presence of harmful gases like sulfure dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide.
Another outcome of the technical conference was the decision for a multi-partite monitoring team to "review and revise the Manual of Operation of JG Summit Holdings, Inc," reads the disposition.
The team is composed of city and village officials, NGOs, peoples' organizations, and the regional EMB.
While awaiting the explanation of JG Summit, Magno said the community leaders will be conducting an information campaign among locals to explain the situation and decide their position on the plant. – Rappler.com
*US$1 = Php 46.31