DENR thumbs down reopening of Payatas landfill

Citing numerous environmental violations and susceptibility to trash slide, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has turned down the request of the Quezon City government to allow its sanitary landfill in Payatas to reopen until December this year.

In his letter to Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista dated last Aug. 11, DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Affairs Jonas Leones noted the adverse findings of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) against the continued operation of the Payatas dumpsite, officially known as the Quezon City Sanitary Landfill (QCSLF).

"In this connection, much to our regret, we are constrained to deny your request to utilize the landfill until it reaches its full capacity or until December 2017 based on the findings made by the EMB Central Office, MGB and EMB National Capital Region," Leones told Bautista in the letter.

The EMB and MGB, both line bureaus of the DENR, conducted a joint inspection of the QCSLF on Aug. 9, two days after DENR officials led by Secretary Roy A. Cimatu visited the site to determine the possibility of allowing the Quezon City government to use the landfill for two months or until the end of the year.

In its report, the inspection team said that "violations of existing environmental laws and their respective rules and regulations were committed" by the landfill's operator, IPM Environmental Services Inc.

It noted that while no actual dumping of fresh garbage was seen during the inspection, "foul odor can still be perceived even with the use of deodorizer."

"Further, the leachate from the landfill is still flowing towards the creek without undergoing treatment," the inspection team added.

These observations merely confirmed previous findings, which prompted the EMB-NCR to order IPM last August 2 to refrain from conducting any activity within the area to avoid occurrences of irreparable damage to the environment and possible injury to the residents near the QCSLF caused by inclement weather conditions.

In a separate report, the MGB said that the landfill was "highly susceptible to trash slide" based on its geomorphological and environmental assessments.

It added that the "undercutting of garbage toe increases the risk of trash slide along the slope of the garbage dump west of Gawad Kalinga Village."

At the same time, Leones dismissed as "not feasible" Bautista's request to allow the use of QCSLF for two months.

Leones noted that as per MGB report, the allowable area for dumping is only one hectare with a height of 1.5 meters and a corresponding volume of 15,000 cubic meters.

"Considering the solid wastes generated by Quezon City is about 2,970 tons (or 1,247.4 cubic meters) per day and the allowed volume is 15,000 cubic meters, hence the request to allow the use of QCSLF for two months is not feasible, considering that in less than two weeks the landfill will be fully filled up," Leones pointed out.

Since there is no way the Payatas landfill will resume operations, Leones advised the Quezon City government to instead pursue intensifying its implementation of Republic Act No. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, particularly on the promotion of the so-called 3Rs in solid waste management -- reduce, reuse and recycle.

He said that residuals can still be ecologically managed by transforming them into useful products and even as source of income.

"The application of available alternative ecological technologies and the crafting and robust implementation of ordinances that promote waste avoidance and reduction should be seriously pursued," he added.

Meanwhile, Leones disclosed that the DENR has already directed IPM to refrain from dumping solid waste within the QCSLF and begin its rehabilitation of the landfill as soon as possible.

According to the DENR official, the IPM was ordered to immediately submit its detailed Safe Closure and Rehabilitation Plan, which will be evaluated and approved by the EMB-NCR and the National Solid Waste Management Commission.

Source: Department of Environment and natural resources

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