Inayawan dumpsite raises health alarm

By: Morexette Erram August 21,2016 - 10:20 PM
Scavengers search for things that they can use or sell from garbage dumped by a Cebu City garbage truck at the Inayawan landfill. (CDN PHOTO/JUNJIE MENDOZA)

Scavengers search for things that they can use or sell from garbage dumped by a Cebu City garbage truck at the Inayawan landfill. (CDN PHOTO/JUNJIE MENDOZA)

On a humid afternoon last August 16, Cheryl Oguimas and her grandchild, Jerry, were sleeping on a bamboo bed outside their house in a place called “White Road” in Barangay Inayawan when a swarm of huge, black flies awoke them from their slumber.

The boarding house rented by Cheryl is less than two kilometers from the gates of Cebu City’s landfill which was ordered reopened last June 28.

Cheryl and her family have been living there for about three years, but it was the first time for her to witness that many flies.

“Flies, especially big ones, cannot be avoided anywhere. But that time, it was just strange,” Cheryl told Cebu Daily News in an interview.

Her cousin-in-law Jimmy, she said, who lives right outside the landfill’s gate had to install a big mosquito net to cover his entire dining area just to keep the huge flies away from their food.

Cheryl said Jimmy and his family may have already moved to a place “more comfortable” since she hasn’t seen him for days.

Pests, smell

Cheryl and several residents along White Road have been complaining not only against the unusual hordes of pests that have infested their homes but also the stench coming from the open dumpsite and the garbage trucks passing by.

The repulsive smell forces members of her family to hurry into their house each time, closing all windows and doors especially when strong winds blow.

“It is extremely unpleasant and hurts my nostrils every time I breathe. It was like someone poured painful acid through my nose and throat. It really hurts and sometimes, it can trigger headaches,” Cheryl said.

Aside from the health of her grandchild, Cheryl worries about her mother’s fragile state.

“So far, my mother and Jerry have not fallen sick but hopefully, the Cebu City government will do something about it before my family acquires any disease. The dumpsite is very dangerous to our health,” she lamented.

Meanwhile, another resident of Inayawan, Angie, complains that she had acquired asthma after living in the area.

“I was not born with asthma. Asthma, according to our family doctor, can either be acquired through family history or the immediate environment. No one in my side of the family had a history of this disease,” she said.

Landfill volume

Angie shares Cheryl’s opposition against the reopening of the landfill.

“We all know that the landfill has reached its maximum volume capacity, so why still throw our garbage there? I’m really worried about the health of people living nearby, especially the children,” Angie, a businesswoman selling livestock feeds and agricultural supplies, said.

Angie’s family bought a new property outside Inayawan to ensure that no member of her family ever gets sick because of the reopened dump site.

“I have instructed my two children to never visit our old house and store in Inayawan,” she said, adding that there had been times when her employees complained of headaches, forcing them to momentarily close the store or move to inner rooms just to avoid the stench.

Inayawan residents like Angie and Cheryl believe that the foul odor is a reaction of certain chemicals poured over fresh mounds of garbage in the city’s efforts to contain the smell.

P10 M budget ‘needed’

The head of City Hall’s Department of Public Service (DPS) Roberto Cabarrubias told Cebu Daily News that while they had been dousing chemical disinfectants as trash deodorizers on the piles of garbage in Inayawan, this could not be the cause of the sickening smell that residents complain about.

“We flatten and pour these deodorizers on every dump that reaches a height of 1.8 meters. We wait for at least five minutes before we can cover it with anapog (crushed limestones),” Cabarrubias said.

In response to complaints, the DPS chief said they will propose before the Cebu City Council on Tuesday their plans to obtain more trash deodorizers and two more heavy equipment as well as install more gas ventilations within and underneath the piles of garbage in the 15-hectare site.

“Of course, we are also concerned about the public’s health. This is an urgent problem we have to deal with as soon as possible,” said Cabarrubias.

The DPS is also seeking a P10 million budget from the city council for the purchase of crushed limestones or anapog.

“We cannot respond to the issue on the foul smell emitted by the landfill because we lack equipment and we are indeed running short of crushed limestones. That is why we plan to propose all of these to the city council,” Cabarrubias told CDN.

However, during the council’s executive session last week, the chairman of the city’s committee on environment, Councilor Joel Garganera, questioned Cabarrubias’ P10 million budget proposal to have a budget for P10 million for “anapog” for lack of details.

“They only revealed the budget. But what about its actual cost, and the volume of crushed limestones they plan to purchase? The planned P10 million budget should also come with how much cubic meters of these crushed limestones are needed to cover the foul smell at the dumpsite,” Garganera pointed out.

The executive session was held with Department of Health (DOH-7) representative Mico Bahao and Environmental Management Bureau (EMB-7) director Engr. William Cuñado.

Cabarrubias promised to provide a more detailed presentation of the landfill requirements during the city council session tomorrow. For his part, Garganera wants the different agencies to explain some “ critical findings” uncovered in the last executive session.

“Along the way, the regional office of DENR found out that reopening the Inayawan landfill violated not only one but three laws — namely the Clean Water Act (Republic Act 9275), Clean Air Act (Republic Act 8749) and the Solid Waste Management Act (Republic Act 9003),” Garganera said.

Garganera now plans to file a case against officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-7) for failing to act on the violations committed when the landfill was reopened last June 28 by then acting mayor Margarita “Margot” Osmeña.
“DENR should be the one to reprimand the people behind the reopening of the Inayawan dumpsite. It is part of their job but they did not take any actions. It was DENR who discovered these offenses but what — they just leave it there? And why?” Garganera asked.

Among other things, the Inayawan dumpsite reportedly lacked an operation permit from DOH 7 when it reopened.

Reports reaching Garganera also said that interested buyers of a residential building along the South Road Properties (SRP) near the dumpsite have withdrawn plans to purchase condominium units there.

“The people who are now supporting Inayawan’s reopening wanted to draw investors and people to SRP before. But after they decided to reopen the dumpsite again, it seems like they now want to drive investors away. It’s like they are trying to equate the value of our health with the value of the investment poured into SRP,” Gargarnera said.

Earlier, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña questioned the P16.7 billion sale of SRP lots through public bidding by the administration of former mayor Michael Rama to the Ayala Land–SM Prime Holdings consortium and Filinvest Land Inc.

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TAGS: Barangay Inayawan, Cebu, Cebu City, Cebu Government, DENR-7, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Public Service, DPS, Inayawan, Inayawan landfill, landfill, RA 9003, SRP, White Road
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