Toxic chemical spills into busy Davao street

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 4 Sept) – Around 8 gallons of formic acid spilled on Ponciano Street Thursday morning after a truck carrying 800 gallons of the hazardous material was toppled.

Classes at nearby Kapitan Tomas Monteverde Elementary School were immediately cancelled by the Department of Education.

Robert Oconer, head of sanitation at the City Health Office, said in a telephone call Thursday afternoon that the owners of the container van would face sanctions, such as the revocation of its business permit, if any negligence is found.

Public Safety and Security Command Center chief Francisco Villaroman said they would ask for the owner’s permits to be cancelled, too, if negligence is proven.

Villaroman added that the city’s responders from Central 911 were trained in handling hazardous materials.

The authorities identified the owner as Ellen Brasillo.

“According to the owner, the container came from Sasa Wharf and it should be transported to Maramag, Bukidnon,” said Insp. Salvador Flores, Davao City’s Bureau of Fire officer of the day.

The investigator said that the truck was parked on fresh asphalt and the left rear tire was also sitting on a deep hole. The heavy load further contributed to the truck turning on its side.

Flores said formic acid is dangerous because it is corrosive, flammable and could easily damage the skin.

The chemical was also highly odorous, with the fumes crossing the People’s Park.

It is used in processing rubber, leather, textile, and electronic goods.

The authorities, meanwhile, covered the chemicals with sand.

In an interview at Thursday’s Philconstruct Mindanao at the SMX Convention Center in Lanang, a specialist in hauling services said there were specialized trucks that could carry the chemicals and the owners of the liquid should not have used a truck that did not have an enclosure.

Shacman Motors account manager Jessie Catinoy said there are proper ways to transport hazardous waste.

“We use different kinds of vehicles for hazardous waste such as LPGs and gasoline as well as acids,” he said.

Catinoy added that specialized trucks are more suitable for handling hazardous waste and commercial vehicle owners should be aware of this, he said.

Earlier this year, the city government created a multi-agency task force to properly regulate and ensure safe practices of persons and entities handling or engaging in businesses involving flammable, hazardous, toxic or dangerous substances.

The EO said the task force will determine the appropriate action relative to the proper enforcement of all applicable laws that govern the proper management, transport and distribution of these chemical substances.

Classes at the Kapitan Tomas Monteverde Elementary School were suspended after the BFP reported the incident to the Department of Education.

Leonida Polestinos, school principal, said they automatically announced the suspension of classes until there is an advisory that it is safe for the students to go to back to their classrooms.