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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

DENR intervention sought on molasses spill, stench

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Bacolod City – The intervention and assistance of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is being sought in order to find immediate and timely solution on molasses spillage and foul odor from the Victorias Milling Company water treatment facility, which is affecting residents of Victorias City, Negros Occidental.

This was stipulated in a resolution authored by Councilor Dino Acuña, chairperson of the committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, which was unanimously approved by the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Victorias City, during its regular session recently.

Acuña disclosed that the increased heat in the VMC molasses tank of caused the leakage of about 1,875,000 liters or 3,000 metric tons of molasses on May 5, with several metric tons flowing over to Malihaw River, causing environmental damage and issues to the seashores of the coastal barangays 6-A, 9 and 13, all in Victorias City.

The recovered spilled molasses that were disposed into the sugar milling company water treatment facility has emitted an unpleasant rancid odor affecting the residents of Victorias City.

Acuña said the foul odor exposed Victorias City residents to possible pulmonary and other damaging health risks.

During the recent legislative inquiry conducted by the Victorias City Sangguniang Panlungsod, VMC officials said that it will take a month and one week to address the issue on foul odor, which Acuña said “unacceptable to the people of Victorias City.”

VMC officials, who apologized for the incident, also presented action plans and countermeasures to mitigate the impact and potential damage to the local community, which include neutralizing the PH levels of the sugar refinery’s waste and wastewater treatment plant.

The Sangguniang Panlungsod of Victorias City also unanimously passed another resolution authored by Acuña, requesting the Victorias City Legal Office to explore, study, recommend and file all possible legal actions and remedies against VMC for the molasses spillage that resulted to the contamination of Malihaw River, and spread of rancid odor affecting 11 barangays of Victorias City, since May 16, violating the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1991, Clean Water Act of 2004, among other related environmental laws.

During the May 24 legislative inquiry, Acuña disclosed that several legislative measures were formulated to ensure that no such eliminating and degrading acts against our natural resources and the environment, shall happen in the future.

A similar resolution was also approved by the City Council, enjoining Mayor Javier Miguel Benitez to forge a memorandum of agreement with VMC, relative to their rehabilitative actions to address the molasses spill, which includes mitigating, contingency, and control measures, both in short and long term plans, river and cleanup activities, community service and assistance plans, and other measures that can help alleviate the suffering of Victoriahanons, brought about by the continued spread of rancid odor.

As of the May 26, the Task Force Bantay Molasses Spill organized by Benitez reported that there was no improvement in the PH level of five waste waters treatment ponds of VMC, although the sugar milling company increased their liming and caustic soda application.

PH level must reach at least 6.5 in order to reduce the foul odor caused by hydrogen sulfide gas, from its present PH levels ranging from 5.05 to 5.94, according to a report of the task force. (Gilbert Bayoran via tvds photo by tvds)

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