Davao councilor wants study on incidence of water-borne diseases

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 18 March) – A councilor is asking the City Health Office to conduct a study on the incidence of water-borne diseases at residential areas near and around the Davao River to examine the effects of a lack of implementation of the Septage and Sewerage Ordinance.

Speaking at Monday’s Kapehan sa SM, environment chair Leonardo Avila III said a study by the Environmental Management Bureau showed increased levels of pollutants at downstream Davao River, especially near Bankerohan which has been designated as a market area by the City Planning and Development Office.

Earlier this year, Avila said the city should also assign an environmental sanitary specialist at the CHO to monitor the implementation of the ordinance.

Avila said children could be susceptible to water-borne diseases, especially with residents opting to access river water for their use, in some cases having the children bathe in the river recreationally.

Last year, the Department of Education noted that some of their pupils’ attendance in class were affected because of water-borne diseases.

Engr. Gloria Raut, De Ed climate change adaptation head, said that the environment was an obvious factor to the health of children living near bodies of water.

Raut said children are in danger of being affected by diseases like diarrhea, cholera, typhoid fever, among others.

Vector-borne diseases like dengue, malaria, leptospirosis and filariasis could also affect children, especially in households with lack of hygienic practices.

Avila said the designation of dedicated personnel to monitor the implementation of the ordinance has been long overdue, with the IRR already completed at the end of the term of former mayor Sara Z. Duterte in 2013.

A report from the EMB showed that three rivers in the city are nearing allowed levels of pollution in rivers.

Avila said that since the ordinance has been passed in the previous council, there have been no fines slapped or arrests made on violators because there was no one tasked specifically to focus on monitoring the implementation.

He added that the executive should even name a permanent representative to meetings with the Water Quality Management Board, which would report findings to the LGU.

The EMB report recommended that the city immediately implement the Septage and Sewerage Management Ordinance.

Aside from the implementation of the ordinance, the EMB also asked the city to slowly relocate the informal settlers living near or along river banks.

“The river is the depository of their wastes,” the report said. “For the meantime, communal toilets should be provided for them.”

The report added that the city should monitor the wastewater treatment facilities of industries such as agriculture and livestock activities, among them hog and poultry raising.

It said these were potential sources of high organic waste and coliform bacteria.

The same goes for backyard animal farms, especially those without appropriate wastewater treatment facilities.

According to the EMB, the city should also enforce the watershed protection, conservation and management ordinance.

The EMB report showed that fecal coliform and other indicators such as biochemical oxygen demand were higher downstream in all three Davao, Lipadas and Talomo rivers.

Biochemical oxygen demand (or BOD) is the amount of dissolved oxygen needed to break down organic biological waste such as waste from public markets.

BOD was near critical upstream and downstream of the Davao River, the EMB said.

Both streams of the river also showed high siltation and a huge amount of total suspended solids, which causes erosion during heavy rains.

According to Avila, the city government has to enforce the ordinance it has passed, especially since these were already affecting the city’s rivers.

The rivers, the report said, were still a source of food to some residents and as a recreational swimming area despite the pollution levels.

“The penalties of the ordinances were up to P5,000 and even imprisonment,” Avila said.

The councilor added that the executive department should either name a person in charge of the septage ordinance enforcement or, if need be, hire a sanitary engineer qualified for the task.