Garbage Slide Pollutes Manila's Drinking Water

Dec. 28, 2000

A garbage slide and fire in the Manila suburb of Quezon City in the Philippines, which claimed at least 200 lives last week, now may be polluting the water of a major reservoir that serves 10 million residents of Metro Manila.

International environmental group Greenpeace warned that the La Mesa reservoir now contains toxic substances from the runoff of flood waters at Payatas, the dump site where the fire occurred. Heavy monsoon rains contributed to the runoff.

"As of now, water at La Mesa contains metallic substances such as chromium, zinc and alloys 30 per cent beyond their safety levels. These metals cause cancer and other ailments," said Greenpeace spokesman Enero Brilliantes. The La Mesa reservoir is the only source of drinking water for Manila, which is already short of domestic water needs.

Department of Health Secretary Alberto Romuladez has issued an order to investigate La Mesa dam's waters. "If the Greenpeace report is true, I will immediately order the public to stop drinking water that flows from La Mesa dam," he said.

But according to Maynilad, the private water service agency responsible in maintaining La Mesa dam, "there is no truth that the waters of La Mesa dam is being contaminated by the Payatas dump site."

"We were surprised by the Greenpeace report. We are doing monthly samples to ensure that the water of La Mesa dam is safe and we are constantly monitoring La Mesa dam's water resources," said Maynilad official Joel Lacsamana.

However, he said, the company had already been requesting the closure of the dump site long ago because of its proximity to the dam. "We made our appeals to the Metro Manila Development Authority, Department of Health and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources with little success," he said.

The government has just permanently closed Payatas and is looking for potential landfills outside of Manila to accommodate the 10,000 tons of trash generated every day.

(Source: Environment News Service)