PHILIPPINES–Workers at the Leyte Development Industrial Estate(LIDE) in Isabel, Leyte have sought help from the Environment Management Bureau (EMB) to take action on what they called “foul odor” emitting from the processing plant owned by the Philippine Associated Smelting and Refining Corporation (Pasar).
Workers from other locators inside the industrial complex, particularly workers of Philphos (Philippine Phosphate Fertilizer Corporation) claimed that the air coming from the Pasar plant has a “strong content of sulfur dioxide,” posing health hazards to them and to the environment as well.
In a series of letters to EMB, they alleged that “very strong levels” of foul odor revealed that the emission of sulfur dioxide at Pasar plant goes beyond the allowable level.
Pasar’s primary products are electrolytic copper cathodes which are the raw materials used in the manufacturing of electric cables, telecommunication wires, and copper-alloy products which are exported abroad.
Accordingly, PASAR is 78-percent owned by Glencore, one of the world’s largest diversified commodities trader. Glencore acquired PASAR from the Philippine government on 1999.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through the Clean Air Act of the Philippines, has set 0.07 ppm allowable level for sulfur dioxide discharge.
But the initial ambient air readings at the area go as high as 6ppm, they claimed.
Sulfur dioxide is a nonflammable colorless gas that has a strong and pungent odor causing irritation to the eyes, conjunctivitis and corneal burns.
According to medical findings, long exposure to sulfur dioxide can cause irritation to the mucous membrane of the lungs and respiratory tract, bronchospasm, pulmonary edema, pneumonitis and acute airway obstruction can occur.
Furthermore, moderate to high exposure can cause skin irritation, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
Pasar denies allegations
But in an email statement obtained by Manila Channel, lawyer Noli del Rosario, senior vice president for legal and corporate affairs of Pasar, denied the allegation.
He said that their company is complying with all environmental standards set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-EMB).
“In the last month, some quarters have complained of SO2 (sulfur dioxide) emissions coming from Pasar alleging that these are of ‘mild’, ‘strong’ or ‘very strong’ intensity,” he said.
“These complaints are couched in qualitative and subjective terms incapable of precise measurement. Pasar has in place continuous emissions monitoring system or CEMS which records SO2 emissions in real time.
With regard to the qualitative complaints raised, Pasar has not exceeded the TWA (Time Weighted Average) taken over any eight hour period,” del Rosario added.
He also said that their company’s anti-pollution protocols are “in place and are working.”
The official also said that they will conduct an inspection of any possible leaks among their equipment on September 12 of this year as they will go on mandatory plant shutdown that will last for 15 days.
Asked on whether Pasar should be penalized after CO’s monitoring if found out the gas emission exceeded the DENR Standard of SO2, EMB in Eastern Visayas region said that its central office team will conduct a supervision using Air Quality Monitoring instrument to determine the SO2 level in the area.
The regional office said it “has no capacity and monitoring equipment to conduct the SO2 monitoring.”
“Then we advised PASAR to fix the source of fugitive gases and gave the company one month to do it. Then Pasar will establish a continuous emission monitoring system to capture 24-hour readings of SO2 gas emission near Gate 3 in LIDE,” it said in a statement.