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Petron denies role in Bataan ash fall

refinery

Ash gathering at the bottom of the chimney of this coal-fired power plant in Limay, Bataan, earned the Petron Bataan Refinery its first notice of violation from the government. —TONETTE T. OREJAS

LIMAY, BATAAN—Petron Corp. said it played no part in the ash fall from its oil refinery here that has affected communities and polluted the coastline for which it was slapped with a Dec. 28 notice of violation.

The ash pond of a 150-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power plant operating inside the Petron Bataan Refinery (PBR) is secure and about a kilometer from the closest waterway, according to a Petron statement released on Friday.

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Ash ponds sink plant waste like bottom ash (residues that form at the bottom of a coal furnace) in water to prevent these from spreading or from being dispersed in the air.

But Lormelyn Claudio, Central Luzon director of the Environment Management Bureau (EMB), issued a notice of violation last month against the refinery for “bottom ash used as filling material” that allegedly drained into waterways.

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On Jan. 6, EMB issued two more notices—one stopping Petron from  dumping newly generated bottom ash from its coal-fired power plant to the ash pond of a 600-MW coal-fired power plant being built by the San Miguel Consolidated Power Corp. (SMCCPC), and the other ordering SMCCPC not to take the residue.

San Miguel Corp. has controlling shares in Petron. The refinery’s power plant is at the left side of a complex, spanning more than 100 hectares in Barangay Alangan here facing the bay.

SMCCPC is building its plant, with a 27.6-ha ash storage facility at a 47-ha lot in the same compound, according to its environmental and social impact assessment report.

The notices of violation issued on Jan. 6 cited “recent reports and information [about] alleged skin diseases caused by the dumping of bottom ash at [SMCCPC’s] facility.”

Claudio ordered Petron to “ensure adequate containment of bottom ash to avoid dispersion and draining of the same into nearby water bodies.”

She said the ash pond was 500 meters from the Alangan River.

But Petron said EMB was mistaken. “Ash from the pond, certified by DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) as nonhazardous, will be used as raw material for our cement manufacturing plant. Thus, reports of ash spill and tons of ash found along the coastline of a distant river, which is almost a kilometer away from our facility, is far from the truth,” Petron said in a statement.

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“Our ash pond is located within our facility and near our offices. It has the necessary regional and local permits from the DENR, is surrounded by dikes, and regularly watered to prevent dispersion…Nevertheless, we assure [regulators] that we will continue to assist the residents and work with the DENR and the municipality to do what is right and necessary,” it added.

Claudio visited Barangay Lamao in this industrial town on Friday night to determine if plant operations had affected the health of families living near a buffer zone of the refinery.

The EMB conducted an inventory of Lamao households, taking note of children afflicted with respiratory and skin ailments. Claudio said the list would be transmitted to government health officials.

Anita Boliteres, 62, who lives there with 10 children, said she wanted the coal-fired power plant removed “because we don’t think the local government is serious enough about relocating us.”

She said her 57-year-old husband, a former Petron employee, died four months ago from lung cancer.

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TAGS: Bataan ashfall, EMB, Environment Management Bureau, Lormelyn Claudio, Petron, Petron Bataan Refinery, San Miguel Consolidated Power Corp., SMCCPC
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