Huge task confronting Baguio: Moving 10,000 trucks of waste
BAGUIO CITY—How exactly will Baguio move an unstable mountain of garbage that looms perilously over a community below?
Several city officials told the Inquirer they are inclined to remove the facility, a section of which toppled and killed six people on Aug. 27 due to heavy rains, despite efforts to stabilize it under a five-year decommissioning program.
The option to remove all trash left in the Barangay Irisan dump was first raised at a city council session on Aug. 31, when Cordelia Lacsamana, city environment officer, said hauling out some of the trash there could ease the weight pressing down on garbage that accumulated since 1974.
Calculations made by city and environment officials showed that the dump may be composed of 480,000 to 500,000 cubic meters of trash.
Romeo Concio, chief of the city’s General Services Office, who used to manage the dump, said 3.3 cu. m of garbage is equivalent to a ton because the composition of garbage is not as compact as soil. This means Baguio would need to remove as much as 10,822.51 truckloads of garbage (approximately 151,515.15 tons). A truck can carry about 14 tons of garbage.
The council believes half of the dump’s contents had already spilled out down the slope toward Asin Road in the boundary of Baguio and Tuba, Benguet.
Fay Apil, a geologist of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), said the trash slide spanned 380 m from the dump.
But the bigger concern for Baguio is where to haul the mountain of trash.
Concio said the city’s Irisan trash would fit into two cells of an ecological sanitary landfill (ESL). The size of a landfill cell is relative to the size of the ESL, but a cell could be as big as a hectare, he said.
However, most landfill operators would be concerned about the impact of Baguio’s unsegregated trash on the lifespan of their facilities, he said.
Baguio is planning to develop an ESL on a 70-ha government property at Mt. Sto. Tomas, Lacsamana said.
The city’s ESL would have been the logical host for the Irisan trash but government has failed to get the acceptance of communities that would host the facility, she said.
To date, only two commercial landfills have accommodated Baguio’s trash.
Between 2008 and 2010, the city government spent up to P200 million to haul trash to a 70-ha landfill in Capas, Tarlac, which is operated by the Metro Clark Waste Management Corp. It was designed for a 25-year lifespan.
After the trash slide last week, Baguio was able to ship out 16 truckloads of unsegregated waste to the Urdaneta City landfill, a facility designed to last for 10 years.
But on Thursday, 15 trucks loaded with garbage from Baguio were refused access to the Urdaneta landfill.
Urdaneta Mayor Amadeo Gregory Perez IV said on the day the Irisan dump collapsed, he received a call from Baguio Mayor Mauricio Domogan.
“Mayor Domogan asked me how much a ton of garbage would cost in our sanitary landfill,” Perez said. After providing him information, Perez said Domogan hung up.
“I was surprised the following morning because their trucks were already there. And he was only inquiring about the cost per ton [the night before],” Perez said. “I allowed them [to dump for] humanitarian reasons,” he said.
But the Urdaneta government wants a formal arrangement before any transaction takes place.
“I can’t say if it will be cheaper to haul [the whole mountain of garbage out] than restoring the wall,” Concio said.
Before it toppled, the dump towered to a height of a 16-story building (approximately 50 m tall).
The Baguio government adopted terrace engineering to keep the dump stable, shaping its mountain wall into eight terraces set in place by stone walls, said Concio.
It also built a 10-m high and 70-m wide containment wall that eventually failed to carry the full weight of the dump, said Paquito Moreno, Cordillera director of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).
City engineer Leo Bernardez said government may have to spend more than P100 million to restore and improve the containment wall.
In Benguet, officials of Tuba town said their concern at the moment is their residents’ health.
When the slide blocked creeks in Tuba on Aug. 27, water flowed through roads, carrying garbage and leachate (liquid from decaying garbage) toward the villages of Tadiangan, Nangalisan and San Pascual.
“Our apprehension is the remaining garbage in the dump would fall anytime soon,” said Vice Mayor Clarita Sal-ongan.
Mayor Florencio Bentrez said the town government is not thinking of any legal action against Baguio for the trash slide, but he said local officials would act if Tuba residents directly hit by the slide would file a complaint.
Councilor Adora Paus said an immediate need is to test water for contaminants.
Paus said Tuba officials are not joining the “blaming game” and wanted the Baguio government to focus on the cleanup and on helping residents. With reports from Gabriel Cardinoza and Robert Abaño, Inquirer Northern Luzon
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