The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) in Central Luzon has reported that two areas within the Petron Bataan Refinery (PBR) complex in Limay town are no longer used as bottom ash dump facilities.

In its latest inspection report, the EMB said that both the temporary ash disposal facilities of PLT Cove and San Miguel Corp. (SMC) are now covered with soil, compacted and sprinkled with water to prevent ash dispersion and deposition to nearby communities.

The report even noted that the PLT Cove area had already been planted with frog grass.

The EMB is a line bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The result of the EMB inspection was revealed during a recent meeting by the Multipartite Monitoring Team (MMT) formed by the provincial government, held in Balanga City.

In that meeting, Petron disclosed that so far around 3,550 metric tons (MT) of ash have been hauled out and 7,950 MT have been treated.

It said that newly generated ashes are being washed to reduce its corrosivity, after which sampling of the washed bottom ash is undertaken. The MMT only allows the ashes to be hauled out when sampling pass the DENR standard for corrosivity.

Treated ash is transported to SMC subsidiary Northern Cement Consolidated in Pangasinan, where it will be used as material for cement manufacturing.

At the same time, Petron revealed its remediation and rehabilitation plans for the PLT Cove area, mitigation measures for odor nuisance, and relocation of affected families.

Aside from the EMB Central Luzon and company representatives, the MMT meeting was attended by Bataan Gov. Albert Garcia, Congressman Enrique Garcia, a representative from the Department of Health-Region 3, and officers of the Limay Concerned Citizens Inc. or LiCCI.

The provincial government gave assurance that there would be available housing for 250 affected families within the next three to five months. Governor Garcia said informal settlers within the SMC's buffer zone would be given priority.

The establishment of Environmental Guarantee Fund (EGF) was also discussed during the meeting. The fund would be used for epidemiological study or health assessment that will be done in affected communities.

The cost of the study would be sourced from the EGF of Petron and SMC, pursuant to existing Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) rules and regulations.

The EMB Central Luzon, on the other hand, will continue to assess the environmental quality on affected communities in Limay.

According to EMB Acting Director Jacqueline Caancan, the result of the assessment will help determine effectiveness of anti-pollution interventions already done in the area and ensure compliance to environmental policies by those concerned.

Meanwhile, a series of tests have been done to ensure that the air and water in the area are safe.

A 24-hour monitoring for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) was conducted from January 26 to 27. The sampling was conducted by CRL Environmental Services and was witnessed by the MMT members, LiCCI representatives and concerned local government units.

Results of the said sampling showed that VOCs and H2S were not detected at the sampling stations identified by the LiCCI.

The coastal water along PLT Cove was found as not contaminated with substances that could be attributed directly to Petron's dumping of bottom ash in the area, the results further showed.

The result of the sampling conducted at the monitoring well, which was installed to monitor the water quality in the area, was within acceptable pH levels.

In January, a series of ambient air sampling for total suspended particulates and sulfur dioxide at PEX Site and Carbon Site at the Lamao Port was conducted by EMB Region 3 personnel. The results were all within the National Ambient Air Quality Guideline Values. #