Coliform traced to gov’t pipe
BORACAY ISLAND, Aklan — Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu on Saturday continued to check for violations of environmental laws in this resort island, only to find that one of the biggest violators was the government itself.
As authorities went on with the task of enforcing President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to clean up the world-famous island which he had likened to a cesspool, a government-built sewerage system turned out to be violating a 30-meter easement rule and helping pollute the island’s waters.
The discovery surprised Cimatu in the wake of private structures within the 30-meter easement being demolished.
“This is very disturbing,” Cimatu said. “This is our main beach,” he added.
“I’m very worried because this is closer to the shoreline than the buildings,” Cimatu told reporters after inspecting the sewerage pipe.
The sewerage pipe stretches parallel to the beach for at least 4 kilometers from Angol Road in the village of Manoc-Manoc at the southern end of the island to Station 1 in the village of Balabag at the northern end.
The sewerage pipe, installed by the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA), has at least 70 manholes along the beach. The PTA — now Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza) — is an agency of the Department of Tourism.
Cimatu said overflows from the drainage pipe through the manhole contaminated the waters and contributed to the proliferation of algal bloom.
Algae equals feces
While many residents argue that algal bloom is a natural phenomenon that occurs even before tourists began flocking to the island, scientists have said that excessive algal bloom was an indication of water pollution.
A test made on a part of the septic tank connected to the Tieza sewerage pipe, which was buried in the sand, showed coliform level reaching 74,000 most probable number (MPN) per 100 milliliters, which was way above the safe level of 100 MPN per 100 ml for waters for swimming and 200 MPN per 100 ml for waters used for boating.
The coliform bacterial level at a manhole in the Tieza pipe inspected by Cimatu registered 10,000 MPN per 100 ml.
Cimatu said he would recommend the condemnation of the Tieza sewerage pipeline or its transfer to a location farther from the beach.
He said he would recommend that sewerage lines should be at least 50 meters from the beach in all tourist destinations.
Cimatu said he would meet with officials of Tieza and the Boracay Island Water Company Inc. (BIWC) on Monday to discuss these plans.
BIWC operates the sewerage system on the island. On April 2, 2009, it set up a 25-year joint venture agreement between Ayala subsidiary, Manila Water, and the Tieza, which was then PTA.
Cimatu said he would try to get rid of or transfer the sewerage pipeline “in five months.”
“It’s fortunate that we discovered this before the reopening [of the island to tourism],” Cimatu said.
“We still have time,” he said. The President had approved the closure of Boracay to tourists for six months, starting on April 26.
On Saturday, Cimatu also signed an agreement with business groups for the strict enforcement of a municipal ordinance requiring lodging places with at least 50 rooms or more to install their own sewerage treatment plants.
Establishments with fewer than 50 rooms should also have treatment facilities or share treatment facilities.
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