Thursday, April 28, 2011

PCB generators in Mindanao told to ecologically deal with their wastes

28 April 2011, Cagayan de Oro. In view of the Philippine project for the ecological elimination of the country’s stockpiles of the persistent organic pollutants (POPs) polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a multi-stakeholder team led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) told users and generators of PCBs in Mindanao to deal with their wastes ecologically.

In a seminar held this morning in Cagayan de Oro City, DENR-EMB and team told the more than 35 representatives of some 28 electric cooperatives and other generators of PCBs and PCB-contaminated equipment and wastes from Regions 9 to 13 to commit their stockpiles to the UN-assisted Non-Combustion destruction of POPs Project or simply the Non-Com POPs Project.

During the seminar, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Representative to the Philippines, Dr. Suresh Chandra Raj, challenged Mindanao to “be PCB-free and help push the country to attain this status very soon.”

According to DENR-EMB, the currently known PCB inventories as reported in the National Implementation Plan of the Stockholm Convention on POPs include 6,879 tons of PCB containing equipment and wastes.

“If all PCB stockpiles in Mindanao would be committed to the Project, a burdensome number would have been unloaded, providing us with a better view of the target PCB-free country,” says DENR-EMB’s Engr. Edwin Navaluna, Non-Com POPs Project Coordinator.

Chemical advocacy network EcoWaste Coalition also urged the seminar participants to “ensure the environmentally sound management of [their] PCBs as specified in the Chemical Control Order for PCBs by committing [their] PCB wastes to the Project.”

The DENR-issued CCO for PCBs strictly bans the unauthorized handling and improper management and disposal of these chemicals which can put the environment and people’s health at risk.

Adverse effects associated to PCB exposure include damage to the immune system, liver, skin, reproductive system, gastrointestinal tract and thyroid gland.

“Finally, we have a safe, non-burn process to ecologically deal with our country’s stockpiles of PCBs in compliance with our obligations under the Stockholm Convention and the CCO for PCBs,” Navaluna added.

The non-combustion technology, which shall be employed in the destruction of PCBs, destroys the chemicals through a sodium-based dechlorination process. It meets two specific criteria:

Firstly, the technology would operate in a system that is essentially closed. This is to ensure that uncontrolled releases of POPs and other substances of concern are avoided.

Secondly, the technology can achieve total destruction efficiencies (DEs) for POPs and other substances of concern that approach 100 percent. This conforms with the Stockholm Convention in terms of reducing “total releases” to all media with the goal of “their continuing minimization and where feasible ultimate elimination.”

The DENR is the lead government agency in charge of the Non-Com POPs Project, which is supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). PNOC-Alternative Fuels Corporation is the operating entity for the Non-Com POPs Facility, which is housed inside their industrial park in Mariveles, Bataan.

The EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Ban Toxics, Health Care Without Harm, and Mother Earth Foundation are among the public interest non-government organizations participating in support of the project. ###