River in Davao City Alarmingly High in Coliform Level

DENR, DOH raise alarm on high coliform level of Davao River water

DAVAO CITY, March 11 (PNA) — Government agencies here raised alarm over the sanitation state of the Davao River water, noting a sharp rise in total coliform level at 16 million from the acceptable standards of 1,000 most probable number (MPN) per 100 milliliter (mL).

Based on the latest water sampling results for 2014-2015, environment officer Conrada Vinluan of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-11 said total coliform bacterial count from human and animal fecal discharge and heavy metals already reached 16 million per 200mL particularly at the downstream portion of the Davao River.

Vinluan also reported that heavy metals particularly phosphate and zinc also increased to one MPN per 100 ml from .02MPN. Phosphate and zinc come from fertilizers and other farm implements used in agricultural areas.

“Total coliform is like climbing up a ladder,” Vinluan said, emphasizing that it would already be difficult to control the rise of pollution of Davao River.

The total coliform level is unusually high along the portion of the sampling station near the Crocodile Park, Bankerohan Bridge, Bolton Bridge and the mouth of Davao River. The downstream portion of Davao River has 10 sampling stations located in Mandug, Waan Bridge, Diversion bridge, Crocodile Park, Barangay 19-B, San Rafael, Marfori Heights, Bankerohan Bridge, Bolton Bridge and at the mouth of Davao River.

Ma. Socorro Mallare of the Environment Management Board (EMB) -11 said the water quality of Davao River is already degraded with the pH (the measure of acidity and temperature) and total suspended solids like heavy metals are high.

Mallare said the high coliform was monitored in heavy populated areas where most of the residents do not have sanitary toilets; subdivisions which do not have waste water treatment; small agricultural farms which are difficult to monitor and regulate on farm implement practices; business companies; backyard piggeries and poultry; and, people washing clothes throw soap sachets and wrappers into the river.

Mallare said these were monitored during the gathering of water samples. It is also noted that in the area of Crocodile Park sampling station, there is also the city’s slaughterhouse, although Mallare said the abattoir would have the water treatment system.

Washing clothes may be viewed as very minor, Mallare noted, however. She said more and more people are using Davao River in washing clothes because water is becoming scarce in their areas due to drought. She also noted that detergents have harmful contents such as nitrates.

Health effects

Mallare said that coliform does not only come from human and animal wastes but also agricultural and industries. “They are bad for the health. Mataas, hindi na kaaya-aya ang tubig (It’s high and the water is no longer good),” she added.

Gloria Raut, senior program health officer of the DOH-11, said high coliform is dangerous to a person’s health as it affects immunization system. “Dali lang takdan ug sakit (You will easily get infections or disease),” she told reporters during the Kapihan sa PIA at Abreeza Mall on Friday.

Raut said the high pathogens in Davao River will bring bacterial and virus disease such as diarrhea, skin rashes and sore eyes. And since wastes from septic tanks bring bacteria, a person exposed to it could suffer from cholera disease and typhoid fever.

She also underscored poliovirus, which has now resurged in many countries like the Philippines.

According to Raut, the resurgence of poliovirus in the country and in many countries worldwide has kept the World Health Organization (WHO) on its toes. She said that other countries have pointed to septic seepage into water ways that caused the resurgence of poliovirus.

Raut said this is also the same reason that Philippines is one of the countries under the WHO environmental surveillance areas giving focus on sewage system, drainage or “esteros”.

During the regional inter-agency meeting attended by DOH, DENR and the EMB, Raut said the discussion focused on the alarming level of coliform pollution of Davao River. She said it is also affecting Davao’s beaches.

In the report of the DOH, the high coliform pollution is particularly high in the waters of Liberty Beach, Marina Azul 1, Guinoo Beach and Talomo. There is also presence of fecal coliform in Bonguyan Beach Resort water and Coaco.

Raut said they have already alerted the City Health Office (CHO) to take action.

Actions needed

Mallare said there is a need to preserve the water sources of the city especially Talomo Rivera which is the recharge area of the city’s water sources.

Mallare said the preservation of Davao River needs a concerted effort not only from the local government but also from the business sector and the residents.

According to Mallare, the Davao City Water District in partnership with the city government is coming up with a septage treatment facility.

Mallare said the city and DCWD are just perfecting the partnership agreement. She said that the fund amounting to P400 million is ready for the first phase of the project. (PNA)

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