City Health to probe foul smell emitting from coal-fired plant being built in Davao

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 5 March) – The City Health Office is set to inspect this week communities in Binugao, Toril regarding reports of foul odors being detected near the Therma South, Inc. (TSI) property, where a a coal-fired power plant is being constructed.

CHO sanitary chief Robert L. Oconer said in a text message that a team of doctors from his office will asses the area on Friday and determine the source of the odor. Oconer said there has been no formal complaint received by the CHO yet, but they have decided to take action.

TSI corporate communications manager Wilfredo Rodolfo, in an interview aired over Bombo Radyo, said they will also look into the complaints.

The 300-megawatt plant at the boundary of this city and Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur, he said, was conducting a scheduled steam blowing of the power plant to clean the pipes of dirt and rust.

“But all that is being emitted is water vapor,” Rodolfo said, adding there were no chemicals involved in the steam blowing.

According to Rodolfo, while TSI did not confirm nor deny whether the smell came from the facility, there could have been other factors.

“So that people can understand the context, the area has canals and open creeks,” he said. “There could be other sources of the smell.”

Rodolfo, however, committed that the company would “immediately implement mitigating measures” if the investigation finds that the plant was the cause of the odor.

The energy firm reportedly released information on the scheduled steam blowing to the communities surrounding the plant, through leaflets distributed to the communities in English and Cebuano.

TSI also released the information in January to different media outfits, including newspapers and radio stations. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) was also informed.

Rodolfo assured residents that the “smoke” that they will be seeing in the next few weeks from the facility is merely water vapor.

“We assure the community that the steam will not hurt the community’s residents or the environment,” he said.

The power plant will be using diesel to power the steam operations, since the coal plant was not yet operating.

TSI aims to begin commercial operations of the 300MW coal-fired plant by the first half of 2015.

The next phase, Rodolfo said, was the testing and commissioning of the power plant.

He added the activity will only be done during the day time, avoiding night time operations so as not disturb the communities.

The plant, he said, will also be using silencers.

At least 20 electric cooperative and distribution utilities will be taking advantage of the power being generated by the power plant, Rodolfo said.