After ordering the closure of the Irisan dumpsite, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is now eyeing the rehabilitation of Baguio City’s Balili River, which coliform level is even worse than that of the Manila Bay.

The DENR turned its sights on the Balili River after its officials from the central office in Quezon City led by Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management and LGU Concerns Benny D. Antiporda inspected the city’s 33-year-old Sewerage Treatment Plant (STP) as part of the impending rehabilitation of the nation’s summer capital.

Antiporda’s group was alarmed after finding out that the Balili River, to which the treated waters of the STP drains, has severely deteriorated.

Data from the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau in the Cordillera Administrative Region (EMB-CAR) showed that the river’s fecal coliform level was at 1.6 trillion most probable number per 100 milliliters (mpn/100ml).

“This is far worse than Manila Bay which holds a record of 35 million mpn/100ml,” Antiporda pointed out.

As per DENR Administrative Order 2016-08, the acceptable fecal coliform level for Class A rivers, such as the Balili River, is only 4 mpn/100ml.

Meanwhile, the DENR—through the EMB-CAR—is constantly monitoring the renovations at the STP to make sure it would continue to meet its demands.

The STP, which started operating in 1986 is designed to treat 8,500 cubic meters (cu.m) per day. At present, the facility treats 6,500 cbm/day and peaks up to 12,000 cu.m/day during the rainy season.

In October 2018, the DENR approved a compliance action plan (CAP) for the STP pursuant to DAO 2016-08. The CAP was revised and approved last April, with validity until December 2022.

Earlier, the DENR ordered the temporary closure of Irisan dumpsite after finding out during a surprise inspection made by Antiporda’s team that it was operating as an open dumpsite, which is strictly prohibited under Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

Antiporda and other DENR officials also went around Camp 7 to check on a number of pig pens and discovered that animal wastes were being discharged directly into waterways.

Incoming Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, who was also present during the inspection, assured Antiporda’s group that immediate measures will be implemented, such as building a common facility for hog raisers in a more suitable place, probably in the nearby municipality of Tuba.

At the same time, Antiporda said the DENR will make sure that the three-meter easement along waterways will be strictly enforced once the much-anticipated rehabilitation of Baguio City has started.

“This would be a necessary deterrent to possible dumping of household waste along rivers that add up to their contamination,” Antiporda stressed.

For his part, DENR-CAR Regional Executive Director Ralph C. Pablo sought the cooperation of the residents in the restoration of Balili River.

He cited as example the Lamut River in Ifugao province, which won the first prize and named cleanest river in the country during the recently concluded R.I.V.E.Rs for Life Award organized by the DENR.

R.I.V.E.Rs stands for Recognizing Individuals/Institutions towards Vibrant and Enhanced Rivers. ###