Reports said that employees, in their desire to leave the workplace early, would dispose these chemicals into nearby creeks and rivers, which residents of Barangay Birada and nearby villages use for bathing and washing dishes and clothes.
Residents saw empty bottles of chemicals used to control sigatoka, a fungus that affects the leaves of the banana plants. Plantations reportedly use the chemical Dithane, which contains Mancozeb, a chemical considered by experts as cancer-causing.
Employees assigned in Barangay Birada, according to villagers, have been doing this for a long time.
Village officials, in an interview over the Catholic-run radio station DXND, said that many of their constituents have been complaining of skin rashes and other skin diseases.
They claimed the water at the Singkato River, one of the creeks believed to be contaminated by toxic chemicals, could be among the reasons why many residents have experienced skin rashes.
The report was confirmed by a team from the City Health Office (CHO) who said many children and adults are already afflicted with a skin disorder they initially suspected as scabies.
Dr. Jocelyn Incienzo, the city health officer, instituted immediate medical management.
The CHO, however, is yet to confirm if the scabies is brought about by chemical contamination. It also raised the possibility that a big piggery in the village near the creek could be the reason for the skin disorder.
To arrest the problem and erase doubts, Mayor Rodolfo Gantuangco has tasked a special team to probe the alleged reckless disposal of chemicals in Barangay Birada.
The city mayor’s office has already sent notices to Dole-Stanfilco about the issue.
Gantuangco said that the Dole-Stanfilco management “has given us assurance that it is regularly conducting water sampling in creeks and rivers in areas near its banana plantations.”
MindaNews tried to get comment from Dole-Stanfilco but none of them would like to be quoted in an interview. They assured, however, they will cooperate with the LGU in the investigation.
Anytime this week, Gantuangco will issue the executive order that would create the task force. Its main task is to conduct monitoring of the health status of the residents within the Dole-Stanfilco areas, verify the alleged illegal practice of dumping chemicals in creeks and rivers; and facilitate the conduct of water sampling, particularly in creeks and rivers the residents use for bathing and washing.
The team is also tasked to submit recommendations on the conduct of regular monitoring activities in the area and evaluate and submit these recommendations to the city mayor for appropriate actions.