Environment advocates take coal ash samples from Naga

Environment lawyers and non-government organizations yesterday took samples of coal ash in the town of Naga, Cebu, to study its possible toxicity.
The group, led by lawyers Gloria Estenzo-Ramos and her husband Dante Ramos, said they wanted to prove that coal ash was harmful to living beings so that they could take further legal action.

“We need the results for filing of appropriate cases in court,” Estenzo-Ramos said.
She said that even though Cebu has two coal power plants, with more being built, nobody has ever bothered to determine the toxicity of coal ash.

Samples of coal ash taken yesterday will be brought to the Philippine Institute of Pure and Applied Chemistry at the Ateneo de Manila University for testing.
The lawyers, together with the Fisherfolk Development Center (Fidec) and Farmers’ Development Center (Fardec), have to use their own resources to test the toxicity of coal ash.
The group was accompanied by students of the University of the Philippines in Cebu, the media, representatives of the Naga government, and Dr. Romeo Quijano a professor of pharmacology and toxicology with UP’s College of Medicine.

Quijano, a toxicologist, said heavy metals like mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and lead are usually present in coal ash materials.
These substances, he said, cause illnesses in the skin, kidney, nervous system, blood, heart, and brain.

It may also cause cancer if inhaled or somehow found its way into the body.
Results of the tests will be available next month.
Lawyer Dante Ramos said the group was not sure who dumped the particular batches of coal ash that they took samples from.

The group visited barangays Poblacion, Poblacion North, Colon, and Pangdan, where coal ash was used as filling materials.

In barangay Poblacion, coal ash was dumped behind the back of the municipal hall, where a reclamation project is being carried out.
Arthur Villamor, representing Mayor Valdemar Chiong, said the coal ash behind the municipal hall was dumped by the Salcon Power Corp., with the mayor’s approval.
Villamor said the dumping of coal ash in the town was approved by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

In barangay Poblacion North, coal ash was used to cover a part of a river, while in barangay Colon, the ash were used to reclaim an area where residents live.
It was noted that dogs in the area had developed skin diseases.
In barangay Pangdan, eight coconut trees where coal ash was dumped had died.
There is also a river nearby.
The group took three samples of coal ash from each area.
(Cebu Daily News)

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